The up-and-coming athlete who, after reaching the stardom and monstrous paycheck of the professional sports world, deals with the stress of fame by drinking or doing drugs thus ruining his career has sadly become a cliché. Former LA Clippers center from 1997 through 2000, Keith Closs at first glance might appear to fall into this mold. However, it turns out his alcoholism started far before anyone was even thinking of scouting him for the NBA.
Closs believes his drinking problem started in elementary school when his father let him try whiskey and he started stealing sips from the adults’ glasses. His taste for alcohol continued to grow throughout middle school and high school, and by the time he hit college he was a full-fledged alcoholic. He was suspended from his college basketball team his very first week for drinking-related issues.
Despite whispers about Closs’s alcohol problem, the Clippers decided to take a chance on him, and he earned a reputation for being full of himself and hard to coach. “That was the drinking,” Closs admits. Alcohol was his permanent companion; it was even in his Gatorade bottle on the bench during games.
After receiving two DUIs, the NBA forced Closs into rehab. During treatment, he didn’t relate to anyone’s circumstances. He felt because he was in the NBA he couldn’t have a real problem. The final straw came after a night of drinking when he got into a fight with some gang members in LA. Video of the incident went viral on the Internet and the NBA made the decision that Closs was more of a liability than an asset and let him go. Closs still did not get the message and spent the next seven years bouncing around second-rate basketball leagues and drinking heavily.
It wasn’t until Closs was struck with pancreatitis, caused by over two decades of drinking, that he finally saw the light. Staring a painful, life-threatening illness in the eye finally convinced Closs he needed help. He started attending 12-step meetings and now has four years of sobriety under his belt; he is currently fit and healthy. Although he still loves to play basketball, he now finds satisfaction in his sobriety rather than on the court.
Don’t wait until you lose your career and health to problem drinking. Get the issue under control now before disaster strikes. We can connect you with evidence-based rehab programs that can assist you in getting your life back on track. We are here to help, and we are just a phone call away.