Chris Washburn Rumors
After Stern took over as commissioner in 1984, other players permanently banned over the next decade included John Drew, Roy Tarpley and Richard Dumas. Players barred but later reinstated included Lewis Lloyd, Mitchell Wiggins, Duane Washington and Stanley Roberts. Years later, when the drug program was different, Chris Andersen was banned in 2006 and reinstated in 2008. Players always have been able to apply for reinstatement after two years, when they would need to prove having been rehabilitated. Washburn was unsuccessful in his attempt to be reinstated, while Richardson said he opted to remain overseas after he had been reinstated in 1988. “It’s a great story,” Washburn said of the relationship Richardson eventually developed with Stern. “I understand what Micheal Ray did (with drug use). I walked the same road as him.”
His motivation came when his father died in 2000. “I started thinking that I was the only person that my mom has now,” says Washburn. “I had all the book knowledge, but I didn’t want to apply it before,” Washburn says. “I’m on a program of ‘self.’ I don’t go to meetings. I don’t read big books. I still go to bars and hang out other places with friends and maybe I see them using drugs. “But I don’t have that taste in my mouth anymore.” As Washburn weaned himself off drugs, he moved to Dallas and began working in collections for mortgage companies. He met Richardson in 2009. Last year, they moved to Hickory to be closer to his mother.
When his playing days ended, Washburn landed in Houston, most of the $1.25 million he earned in the NBA gone. Destitute, he says he ate out of trash cans and slept in abandoned buildings and crack houses. He spent time in jail on drug charges. Washburn returned to Hickory for two or three years in the 1990s. He needed money to supply his habit. “My dad’s last visions of me were of a (6-foot-11) dope fiend sliding along the floor stealing money from his wallet,” Washburn says. “My mom kept her purse locked up in a filing cabinet at church.” Washburn returned to Houston, where he lived on the streets. He remembers a man sitting next to him being shot point-blank by a drug dealer. “I saw people get killed all the time,” he says.
After failing a third drug test in 1989, he was banned from the NBA. He had played 72 games over two seasons for the Warriors and Atlanta Hawks, averaging 3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds. Washburn would play for a few years in the Continental Basketball Association and the U.S. Basketball League. He also played overseas in Argentina, Puerto Rico, Greece, Spain, Switzerland and Colombia. “The drugs were really good in Colombia,” he says.
Washburn, 45, says he is drug free now; has been for 12 years. This time, he says, his focus is on running a business and helping his community. That starts at the restaurant he opened in January with co-owner and girlfriend Monique Richardson. Prices are reasonable – mostly under $5 – for the wings, fried chicken and other items. And customers who are unable to pay can work for their meals. “If somebody doesn’t have a job, I can’t turn him away,” says Washburn. “There’s work to do around here – sweeping the parking lot, dumping trash… “A man doesn’t always want a handout. He wants to work for what he can get.”
Chris Washburn doesn’t have to go far to be reminded of the dark days when he was a 6-foot-11 addict wandering the streets of his hometown looking for drugs. As Washburn sits in the shade behind his recently opened restaurant on the fringes of downtown Hickory, he is able to briefly flash the gap-toothed grin that was so familiar to fans of Atlantic Coast Conference and N.C. State University basketball 25 years ago. “I would sit right here and do my drugs,” says Washburn. “This was a good spot for it.”