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Sugar, Sugar, Sugar

The Basketball's Disease

Sugar, Sugar, Sugar  The Basketball's Disease

New York city's name is so beautiful that, in his song, Frank Sinatra wanted to say it twice. But only with Sugar Ray’s name you've got to say it thrice! That’s because all his buckets were followed by a long amazement, as long as the time to scream two times: “Sugar, Sugar, Sugar!”. He arrived in the Big Apple in 1978 NBA Draft and the New Yorkers immediately found a way to describe everything he did on the field. The first thing they pronounced was: “Maan, did you see that ? it was Bananaas!


Larry Legend Bird defined him as one of the best basketball players in the world. During his rookie year against Magic Johnson, between some trash talk and some plays, he delivered an amazing dime for Bob McAdoo, with all the Great Western Forum rising up for him. Jud Heathcote was the first of a long series of coaches whom Michael will bond as a father. That’ because he lost his own when he was just 8 years old. When he arrived at the Knicks, the coach was Willis Reed, which was replaced after a starting 6-8 record by the legendary Red Holzman. The relationship between the two was very difficult and Red benched him after 14 games, saying “It will be good for him”.

Ray closed the season with a good average for being the substitute of Earl The Pearl Monroe. The fans at the MSG were crazy for him, mainly because he could be devastating in three different positions. He was a great defender too, like Walt Frazier. He could handle the ball and create plays for his teammates. In the next season, he led the league for assist (10,3 every night) and steals (3,2). He became an All-Star, non just for the Knicks but the entire league.

In a Fitzgerald novel atmosphere, Sugar started to attend at every night date in the city and in New York this could be a problem. This never ending rides around town often ended right in next day practice. In 1981 he’s able to take the Knicks to the Playoffs and everybody wants him in their team. He also sign two brand contract for his shoes e get paid from both of them, before being caught. Sadly, in his life arrived a woman dressed in white, able to take him in an unnatural condition, both mentally and physically.

Because his companion name it’s very well known in New York. It’s cocaine and it’s illegal, both in the USA and the NBA. The problem is that he doesn’t stop at all, but keeps using it instead. During a series of games something’s wrong, his body isn’t the same, he lacks explosiveness and his mind can’t read the game as before. Hubie Brown encouraged the front office to trade him. He arrived in the Golden Bay but, without a guidance and someone beside him, his drug problem becomes very serious. He disappears for days and found in awful conditions.

He gets traded again, landing an other time in New York, but this time with the Nets. Guiding the Brick City Basketball there’s The Fixer Larry Brown. Between the two there is a love-hate relationship, but he's the only one capable to convince Sugar to go to the rehab clinic. But when he come back to the field something isn’t right again and he keep falling into cocaine’s arms. In 1983 Sugar seemed to be the old himself, the perfect mix of Frazier and Magic. He also realized his dream, posterizing Doctor J, Julius Erving. The next season he won the Comeback Player of the Year, today’s MVP. Isiah Thomas will design Sugar Ray as the best player he has ever faced.

Sadly the ghost of the past came back to hunt him, when he was a leader again, a champion, the artist of NBA MoMa’s exposition. During Nets’ Christmas party he fall back into cocaine’s arms. He disappeared for days, with everyone looking for him, also the FBI. He was banished by the NBA which doesn’t recognize him anything. He came in Europe in the next years and in Italy he's capable to score 46 points against Caserta. But he’s not the same, he cannot move like he used to even if he’s not on drugs anymore. He ended his career at 45.

He has an incredible story. We all lost the count of how many times he has fall into hell and come back. He rose up every single time. The Nas single Memory Lane on Reuben Wilson sample could reflex his soul: "Gassed up by a cokehead cutie pie / Jungle survivor, fuck who's the live-er."