Rockets assistant coach John Lucas II dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Friday to discuss the NBA playoffs, but he also opened up about his personal struggle with addiction. The former No. 1 overall pick used drugs and alcohol during his playing days but ultimately turned his life around.
“Well, I didn’t have a choice,” Lucas said on Gio and Jones. “Somebody saved my life, and that was Bill Fitch . . . in 1986. For the last 31 years, that’s what I’ve been doing, trying to be of service and help others, especially in our fraternity in the NBA and in sports, to help people find out that just because you’re down doesn’t mean you’re out, and and just because you’re out doesn’t mean you can’t be back in. It means you have to learn to live your life one day at a time and (accept) and (believe) in something greater than yourself. (You have to learn) to care about others unconditionally. In my house, all my problems are magnified, and I think I’m the only one that has all the problems until I go out and listen (to somebody else) and I find out they got the same problems I got. So I’m not by myself, and one of the biggest things I try to stress is you’re not alone.”
Lucas, 63, often counsels players and tells them not to make the same mistakes he did.
“It doesn’t get to be about the drugs or the alcohol after you begin to stay sober; it begins to get about life,” he said. “It doesn’t get to be about the drugs and alcohol because I’m not drinking or doing drugs anymore. But life is a bitch. Living life on life’s terms is hard, and accepting what comes in life sometimes is really hard to do without leaving life. We’ve lost a lot of superstars in other industries and in sports because you find out that they just couldn’t deal with life anymore. One of the biggest things that kills athletes mentally is age. The second thing is when their career is over, it’s over. I tell the guys all the time, ‘Enjoy the ride because guess what? There’s going to be a draft in June, and there’s somebody else coming. And guess what’s going to happen after that? There will be another daft, and somebody else is coming, and guess what? As your window close, somebody else’s is opening. You better enjoy your window.'”
Lucas’ message is powerful, but it doesn’t always resonate with 20-somethings in the prime of life.
“It’s about 1 out of 10 that make it,” Lucas said. “Some continue to live, but they don’t live happy, joyous or free. They live a life full of misery, and a lot of that is they just couldn’t accept where they were. But you’re right. It’s hard to get a 20-year-old to see it through a 40-year-old’s eyes, and it’s hard for a 40-year-old to see it through a 60-year-old’s eyes. My problem wasn’t the drinking and drugs; my problem was life and how to live life on life’s terms and how to age gracefully through life.”