As I walked into Uptown Espresso the other day to get my usual white chocolate mocha I noticed a giant in the line in front of me. When I say giant, I mean giant! This guy looked like he was easily 7 feet tall with hands the size of oven mitts. As the Barista gave him his coffee and said "thanks Rich" it dawned on me that it was Rich King. Rich King is a former first round pick of the Seattle Supersonics back in 1991. The 7'2 center from Nebraska had an injury plagued career that only lasted 4 years. If it was hard for me to remember who Rich King was (I am the self-proclaimed expert on all things sports related) I seriously doubt anyone else recognized him. What must that be like?
20 years ago everybody wanted an autograph and wondered would this skilled big man be the next Jack Sikma. The Sonics organization had high hopes for Rich and the future seemed bright. As the injuries took their toll it became evident that Rich was not going to be the answer to the Sonics problems in the middle and his career came to a screeching halt. No more autographs and no more interviews, just everyday life in complete anonymity. People stop and stare because he's 7'2, not because he's Rich King of the Seattle Supersonics. That has to cause a dramatic change in your mindset and probably creates an identity crisis of sorts.
Before you start feeling sorry for Rich King I'm happy to inform you he's doing just fine. He started an investment company with former NBA star Detlef Schrempf and is a licensed financial analyst. He parlayed his NBA salary and contacts into a comfortable lifestyle. He may not be pitching mouth wash or body spray, but he's not selling hot dogs on the corner either. Rich King is an example of an athlete who found a way to flourish in the real world after all the cheering stopped and everybody didn't know his name. In the grand scheme of things Rich King is a success story, not a failure.