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Non-Alcoholic

Ex-NBA star who blew $100 million turns to Starbucks to get back on track

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From basketballer to barista: Vin Baker. (AP File Photos)

Former Seattle SuperSonics star Vin Baker is making a comeback off the court has turned to one of the nation’s biggest chains to help turn his life around.

Baker, an Olympic gold medalist who played in four NBA All-Star Games, now works as a Starbucks barista in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.

“In this company there are opportunities for everyone. I have an excellent situation here at Starbucks and the people are wonderful,” Baker told the Providence Journal in a recent profile.

The former NBA player earned nearly $100 million throughout his 13 year professional career but after a long battle with alcoholism, and a series of financial missteps, including a failed restaurant investment, he lost most of his fortune. It took several years to get back on track with years of rehab and becoming a minister at his father’s church, but Baker says he has been sober for four years. He even credits CEO Howard Schultz for allowing him the ability to start a new career path.

“For me this could have ended most likely in jail or death. That’s how these stories usually end,” Baker said. “For me to summon the strength to walk out here and get excited about retail management at Starbucks and try to provide for my family, I feel that’s more heroic than being 6-11 with a fade-away jump shot.”

Despite the humbling experience, Baker says he does not view his circumstances as tragic—but rather a learning opportunity and a chance to redeem himself. He is now training to manage his own Starbucks franchise.

“When you learn lessons in life, no matter what level you’re at financially, the important part to realize is it could happen,” he said. 

“I was an alcoholic, I lost a fortune. I had a great talent and lost it. For the people on the outside looking in, they’re like 'Wow.’ For me, I’m 43 and I have four kids. I have to pick up the pieces. I’m a father. I’m a minister in my father’s church. I have to take the story and show that you can bounce back.”

He may no longer be a millionaire superstar but Baker still loves the sport that shot him to fame. He spent part of this summer working with former teammate Jason Kidd to help out the Milwaukee Bucks coaching staff in the Las Vegas Summer League. And he uses his personal experience to counsel current and former athletes about the unique challenges they face.