Once upon a time, Michael “Sugar” Ray Richardson was one of the brightest young stars in the NBA, setting the league alight with electrifying performances. After a 24-year-career playing in the NBA and abroad, and a decade in coaching in the US and England, Richardson has briefly brought his talent to India. The former NBA superstar is at the NBA India Academy for two weeks, where he has been interacting, practicing, and coaching some of the best young players in the country.
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Richardson also visited Mumbai for a special taping of Sony SIX’s “Around the Hoop” NBA show past Sunday.
Now 62-years-old, Richardson was once one of the most highly-touted young players coming into the NBA, and was drafted fourth in the 1978 draft – two ahead of Larry Bird – by the New York Knicks. The 6-foot-5 guard paid dividends immediately. He became an All Star in his second year in the league and became only the third player in history to lead the league in both assists and steals. He also made the All Defensive Team that year and the next and was an All Star with the Knicks for three consecutive years. Eventually, Richardson was traded to the Golden State Warriors for Bernard King and then returned to the Eastern Conference to play for the New Jersey Nets, where he became an All Star again.
In 1986, Richardson was banned for life by NBA commissioner David Stern for violations of the league’s drug policy, bringing an early end to what could have been a glorious career in the league. He admitted to using cocaine and later regained the right to play in the NBA in 1988, but decided to continue his career in Europe. He played a few seasons in the Continental Baskebtall Association (CBA), and in Italy, Croatia, and France, winning the French League, two Italian Cups, and a Cup Winners Cup. Richardson returned to the game as a coach in the CBA where he won two championships, won two more championships as an NBL Canada coach, and joined the London Lightning in England where he was the PBL coach of the year.