Jason Caffey, embattled former NBA player, uses his story to help young men succeed
With 10 children with eight women over a period of nine years, former NBA forward Jason Caffey wants to be a preventive story. He doesn’t want any young man to be like him, to feel as if money and fame gives him the right to produce children without thought.
After years of child support battles and struggles with mental health, Caffey, 46, has sought to help younger men, speaking about the perils of a frivolous sex life.
Caffey has authored a book with Nadine Pierre-Louis geared for young men entitled: “Richard and The Boyz: The Puberty Experience,” designed to educate those at the most pivotal time of their sexual development.
Caffey’s lifestyle and undiagnosed mental illness cost him a longer NBA career and led him to dark places, struggles with the children’s mother over money, and a domestic violence case 13 years ago that made him reflect on a life lived too high and too fast.
“I knew I needed to turn it around from the get-go. I didn’t like the narrative that was created about me,” he told the Globe. “I understand there were a lot of articles written and said a lot of nasty things. I’m cool with that because some of the things I did was very unethical. However, of those 10 kids that I have, six of them are currently in college right now. My kids turned out real well. It’s because they had great mothers. I can’t say anything about them. We went through what we went through because of a lot of money and lawyers were involved.”
Caffey, whose kids are between 17 and 26 years old, said he has decent relationships with all 10. When he saw that most of them were attending college, moving forward with their lives, disregarding their difficult pasts, he decided it was time to change.
“When I saw them doing so well — got a son at Alabama and a daughter at Missouri, D1 schools. I knew then if I could help my own kids — kids who were pegged to be kids of a guy who’s a deadbeat dad, a guy who’s never going to be anything again — when I overcame that stigma, I knew it was time for me to step out and help other children.”
Speaking to kids through a program founded by Pierre-Louis called “Doc N Jock,” Caffey began relaying his story to young men. Caffey, through therapy, said he finally learned that he produced children to compensate for a lack of love at home. Caffey said he witnessed numerous fights between his parents and never felt truly loved or appreciated.
Caffey, a 6-foot-8-inch power forward out of Alabama, was drafted by Chicago 20th overall in 1995, the start of the Bulls’ second run of three straight NBA titles. Caffey was on two title teams with Michael Jordan before being traded to Golden State in February 1998. It was then that his life spiraled out of control, finally resulting in the Milwaukee Bucks buying out the final two years of his contract after the 2002-03 season.
“One thing about the NBA for me, battling mental illness, is it took me going to clinicals to find out what I was dealing with,” he said. “Being in the NBA was like being a rock star and then you’re playing with the best player in the world. It was tough for me, country boy, coming from Mobile, Ala. Definitely not used to that lifestyle, that kind of money. I always deal with women in abundance.
“I found out in Florida at a 45-day program that my need for women and children was maxed by the love I really didn’t feel growing up at home. When I got to the league, all that money gave me a false sense of power. I wanted my destiny to be love and I equated that with a lot of children.
“It didn’t work out. Me and all my kids don’t get along. Me and all their parents don’t get along. But we do the best we can to get the best out of our kids. I was a wild kid. I had two more years left on my deal in Milwaukee, but I had to say, ‘This lifestyle is getting the best of me, it’s eating me up.’ ”
Caffey said he knew he was dealing with mental illness, but didn’t find out specifics until three years ago that linked his problems back to his troubled childhood.
“I told myself, ‘You can’t leave the Caffey name with this type of stain,’ ” he said. “I talked to all my kids and all of them are 100 percent behind me. Here I am 46 years old and I’m still learning things about sex education.”
His relationships with his children are still developing. His oldest child, Cameron, 26, recently called him after 10 years to reconcile. Caffey said his relationship with Cameron’s mother dates to his days at Alabama, where three Alabama athletes were tested for paternity before Caffey was ruled to be the father. By the time he found out, he was headed to the NBA.
He said he blamed everybody but himself for years, before he discovered that most of what he learned about sex and women was from older men who mistreated women themselves.
“Real men talk,” he said. “When I was coming up, all the information I received about my sexuality and being with women, it came from drug dealers, it came from guys who were pimps. I would tell [today’s players] to surround themselves with real men. Surround themselves with men who respect women and value them. It took me a long time to understand that.
“Now I want to help young men not make the same mistakes I made.”
IN MELO MOOD
Carter shows veterans the way
Regardless of how you feel about Carmelo Anthony the player, his pleas to return to the NBA in an ESPN interview with the outstanding Stephen A. Smith was a rather sad testament about how professional sports can simply decide when a superstar is no longer a superstar, or even a competent player.
Just three years ago, Anthony averaged 22.4 points per game for the New York Knicks, in the final of his seven All-Star seasons with the club. Anthony wasn’t a champion or even a top-five player, but he was considered one of the elite scorers of his generation, a midrange specialist who accepted the role as the face of a dysfunctional Knicks franchise.
Three years later, the Knicks are still a mess and Anthony is without a team. He was bought out of his contract after one season with the Oklahoma City Thunder and then spent a frustrating 10-game stint with the Houston Rockets, barely able to break in his new sneakers before being traded to the Chicago Bulls and then waived again.
At 35, Anthony is still looking for NBA work. Some teams consider him a selfish ball hog, consumed with scoring and being the primary option and not with winning. Other teams are unsure whether he would accept a complementary role and whether he would serve as a leader to young players who probably know him more for playing him in NBA 2K.
The youngest NBA players are born in the year 2000, 16 years Anthony’s junior, so he has become a relic, a star from generations past whose declining skills may not be worth the headache of the ego.
Anthony told ESPN he would accept a bench role. And he was right when he said there aren’t 450 players in the NBA better than he is. But how does Anthony persuade teams he’s worthy of an opportunity? That’s the most difficult part.
Trying to erase a well-earned reputation is difficult. If you recall, the great Vince Carter wasn’t so beloved when he asked for a trade out of Toronto and was playing for teams such as New Jersey, Orlando, and Phoenix, tabbed strictly as a dunker who had no desire to be a veteran leader. Carter’s reputation began changing with a three-year stint with the Mavericks, where he turned himself into a quality reserve. He then spent three years with the Grizzlies, where he really transformed into a leader for the team’s younger players.
Leadership carries major value, especially in an NBA where the attrition rate for younger players because of the one-and-done rule is so high. So Carter signed with the Kings and then spent a season with the rebuilding Hawks, and they liked his impact so much that they just brought him back for a 22nd NBA season.
Carter, 42, is not likely going to win a championship with the Hawks but what he has done is establish a blueprint for NBA staying power. First, to remain in the league into your late 30s, you still have to have some game. Second, you have to be open to teaching, serving as a de facto assistant coach.
“Well, for me, I just want the opportunity, and whatever rookie is there, I just want to kind of help them flourish and become whatever it is they want to become,” Carter said. “But there are a lot of great rookies out there. It’s easy to say Zion [Williamson] and [Ja] Morant.
“I got the opportunity to have a conversation with RJ Barrett, so I’ve gotten to know him well. To see his hunger and desire to be a good player and his willingness to learn, his willingness to ask questions, he’s one guy that I’m kind of excited to see how he turns out.
“Atlanta has drafted some pretty good rookies that have had great college careers. I’m just interested to see these top-five guys, top-eight players who are really talked about. I’m just interested to see them. Obviously, wherever I play, I’ll get the opportunity to see that rookie play more. But obviously we’re going to see Zion everywhere, and we’re going to see Morant everywhere as well. We’re all going to be tuned in just like everyone else.”
That’s how Anthony is going to have to survive in this league because, at this point, his friendships with LeBron James and Chris Paul mean nothing when it comes to getting NBA work. The Lakers, desperate to fill roster spots, could have offered Anthony a minimum contract. Instead they opted for former BC standout Jared Dudley because of his embracing of a leadership role and ability to play a reduced role.
Anthony hasn’t proven he can, but, then again, he hasn’t gotten a chance either. In Houston, Anthony was just getting accustomed to the Rockets’ 3-pointers-or-else mentality and shot 32.8 percent in those 10 games. The Rockets were hoping Anthony would turn into “Olympic Melo,” the international Anthony who would live at the 3-point line and drain long-range shots off teammates’ dribble penetration. Could Anthony have transformed into that player with the Rockets? He really never had a chance.
General manager Daryl Morey’s shocking decision to tell Anthony to essentially stay away from the team until he was released or traded sent a message to other GMs that Anthony was potentially toxic. That was extremely unfair. Anthony wasn’t exactly terrible with the Rockets, averaging 13.4 points in 29.4 minutes.
But now he’s out of work and it doesn’t matter whether the Rockets treated him unfairly because there’s nothing he can do to change that situation. Anthony’s best hope is that a team decides to take a chance. There’s really nothing more Anthony can do. Videos from summer workouts aren’t going to persuade a team to risk bringing in an aging former star with a selfish reputation. Anthony has to hope all 30 GMs don’t feel that way — and they probably don’t — but with no demand for Anthony, there’s no reason for a GM to sign him in August.
Kemba or Kyrie? Tiny can’t choose
Former Celtics point guard Nate Archibald declared he was neutral in the popular debate as to who is a better fit for the Celtics: Kemba Walker or Kyrie Irving.
Archibald has relationships with both players, having met Walker as a youth in the Bronx, years prior to committing to UConn. Archibald has known Irving’s father, Drederick, the former Boston University guard, since he also was a young player in the Bronx.
“I remember meeting Kemba Walker,” Archibald said. “He was with a team called the Gauchos. He went to a different [avenue] than most guys because he wasn’t playing that much,” Archibald said. “His confidence built up. He started talking to a guy who went to UConn, Ben Gordon. I think they made a connection. That’s where he decided he wanted to go. He asked me and I said that was a great place to be.”
Kyrie played two seasons in Boston before deciding to sign with the Nets, just months after promising to re-sign with the Celtics.
Irving has yet to comment about signing with the Nets or why he decided to leave the Celtics.
“[Getting Walker is] a good move for [the Celtics],” Archibald said. “I hated to see them lose somebody like Kyrie because I know his dad. I knew his dad when he was a youngster. I had Rod Strickland, Drederick Irving. All those guys grew up in the same projects, right across the street from Patterson. I had the key for the night center where I would let guys come in and play.”
Archibald said he admires both point guards and is rooting for both to succeed.
“It’s a [difficult] thing; [the Celtics] lost a super superstar and replaced [Irving] with another super superstar. Kemba is going to have to learn the team. And the team changed. A lot of guys that were there aren’t there anymore. I think he’s going to do a great job.
“There’s no comparison. People want to compare one to another. Different personalities. Different individuals. Different way to play. I hope [Walker] does well. I hope both of them do well. Because both of them are connected with me.”
Jeremy Lin made headlines by becoming emotional in expressing disappointment in lack of free agent interest. Lin won an NBA title with the Raptors in June, but barely played during their playoff run. That stint didn’t help his marketability and there is a perception that Lin has never been the same player since suffering a serious knee injury in the opening game of the 2017-18 season with the Nets. The question is whether Lin is capable of being a backup point guard. That may not be decided until perhaps October when teams may have needs and minimum-salary spots to offer. Lin, who turns 31 Aug. 23, is not alone. There are a slew of veteran free agents who are waiting for calls . . . The FIBA World Cup that begins this month will give fans another chance to see Argentine point guard Facundo Campazzo , a tough 28-year-old bowling ball who had his success against Kyrie Irving in a matchup during the 2016 Rio Olympics. Campazzo wanted to play in the NBA, but he signed a three-year deal with Real Madrid. Perhaps a good showing at the World Cup will increase the NBA interest in the flashy guard. Campazzo played fearless during the Rio Olympics and also helped Argentina win gold last week at the Pan American Games.