Whenever there was playful banter between teammates, Tarpley was always a part of it. He took more than he dished out, but that was fine with him. As refined and skilled as he was on the court, he was like a big happy, goofy teenager off it and that made him tremendously likable. Tarpley would tell funny stories about himself. One night after a game, I ran into him in a convenience store and he had a six-pack of beer, a huge bag of chips and a bottle of Tabasco sauce. The next day at practice, I was telling some of the other players about his health food habits and Tarpley, laughing at himself, said: “I love Tabasco sauce. When I was a kid, I used to drink it right out of a bottle. I’m serious. But when I went to the bathroom, I’d be hurtin’.”
Roy Tarpley Rumors
The three years Tarpley was banned by the NBA, the Mavs averaged 15 wins. When he returned before the ’94-’95 season on a six-year, $25.8 million deal, Carter, who called Tarpley his “prodigal son,” grew misty-eyed at the news conference. Dick Motta, back after coaching Tarpley his rookie season, labeled it a “monumental moment.” On Nov. 17, 1994, his first game back after a four-year layoff from the NBA, Tarpley collected 16 points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes. “But when he came back the last time,” Sonju said, “he was not the same guy. He wasn’t fun. His personality had changed. All because of the problems he had.” Thirteen months after the prodigal son’s third return, the NBA banned him for life.
Sonju, who runs a Christian camp in New York but still lives in Dallas, thinks if not for Tarpley’s demons, his Mavs would have won a title. Maybe even two. And how much different would the Mavs’ history look then? “If Roy stays and you’re playing for championships,” Sund said, “who knows?”
Former Maverick Roy Tarpley, who died last Friday at the age of 50, will be buried Saturday morning in Mobile, Ala. Assistant general manager Keith Grant and director of basketball development Rolando Blackman will represent the Mavericks at the private ceremony. “I think it’s important for me, as a person, and for the franchise,” Grant said Friday. “I spent a lot of time with Roy. There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears on both sides there. I think it’s the right thing to do.”
The death of Tarpley, 50, was a shocker to Aguirre and the rest of the NBA old heads who played with and against him. Tarpley, from Detroit Cooley and the University of Michigan, battled drug and alcohol abuse that led to a lifetime ban from the NBA in 1995. He died Friday in Arlington, Texas; the cause of death has not been released. “He was a beautiful person with a really big heart,” Aguirre said Saturday during a telephone interview from Chicago.
The Mavericks vowed to help him with his drug and alcohol problems shortly after the draft. That’s when the team and the Tarpley family reached out to Aguirre and asked him to mentor Tarpley. Aguirre agreed to do it under one condition. “I said, ‘You have to move in with me,'” Aguirre said. Tarpley lived with Aguirre his first two seasons in the NBA and he said Tarpley was on the straight and narrow.
But after they were separated, Tarpley’s world unraveled. Just six games into the 1989-90 season, he resisted arrest after being pulled over for intoxicated driving, and was suspended by the NBA. In 1991 he had two more DWI incidents and was suspended again.