Saturday, January 28, 2006

Easy, Rider.

He was late to his introductory press conference after finally signing a contract as the fifth overall draft pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1993.

It proved to be an inauspicious omen in the life and NBA career of one Isaiah “J.R.” Rider.

I guess I can’t say I was shocked when reading of Rider’s most recent plight.


Troubled former NBA player Isaiah Rider appeared in court Friday to face kidnapping charges but did not enter a plea because he did not have a lawyer.

Rider, 34, was arrested Thursday on charges of kidnapping and battery, said Sgt. Bruce Baker of the Marin County Sheriff's office. Rider, who also faces an outstanding warrant for resisting arrest in Alameda County, was released Friday from Marin County Jail on $2 million bail.

Rider allegedly got into an argument Wednesday night with the unidentified female acquaintance and drove off with her against her will, Baker said. The woman began to scream, attracting the attention of police. Authorities tracked Rider down early Thursday morning and arrested him, Baker said. The woman was not injured.

Rider told Marin County Superior Court Judge Verna Adams that he had called his lawyers but no one showed up. The public defender's office offered to consult with Rider but he said he would be represented by a private attorney.

Adams ordered Rider to return to court Monday.

Again, that appears to be a microcosm of Rider’s existence. He called his lawyers but no one showed up? C’mon, JR. That sounds awfully similar to the excuses you used to put forth when being late to practice as a member of the Timberwolves. Like the time the plumbing in your house failed because of frozen pipes? Or the time your SUV wouldn’t start because it was too cold? Both incidents took place around early November----WHEN IT WAS 40-PLUS DEGREES OUTSIDE! I know that may seem chilly to a California native but here in “Minny” we’re wearing wind breakers at that temperature.
That’s not to say that Rider didn’t have his moments of brilliance. I’ll never forget a game in his rookie season of 1993-94. The Wolves were taking on the New York Knicks at the famed Madison Square Garden. Knicks center Patrick Ewing was going in for a breakaway dunk when out of absolutely nowhere the 6’5” Rider swooped in from behind and swatted away the 7’0” Ewing’s dunk attempt.

Who could forget Rider’s performance in the slam dunk contest on All-Star weekend at his home Target Center in 1994? His “East Bay funk dunk” (above, in progress) allowed Rider to take home the Slam Dunk championship as a rookie. As Rider approached the basket he leapt toward the rim. While in mid-air he transferred the basketball between his legs from on hand to the other and came down with a windmill style jam. Players and fans alike were brought to their feet in absolute astonishment at such a physiological feat.

Those would be some of the few moments in Rider’s career when his on-court performance was more newsworthy.

Rider racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and suspensions in his NBA career, which ended in 2001. His offenses ranged from being tardy to practice to spitting at fans and airport personnel to crimes of assault and marijuana possession.

He spent two days in jail for failing to perform court-ordered community service for a 1994 assault charge -- kicking a woman in the back after a disagreement at an autograph signing.

In May 1997 he was convicted of marijuana possession and later pleaded no contest to possessing unregistered cellular phones.

Rider would spend only three years in Minnesota. He was then traded to Portland in 1996 and spent three seasons with the Trail Blazers. He was suspended for a total of 12 games during his time in Portland, including three by the NBA in 1997 for spitting at a fan in Detroit.

After getting traded to Atlanta for Steve Smith on Aug. 2, 1999, Rider was late to his first day of camp, and never could get along with coach Lenny Wilkens. He was released in March 2000 after refusing to accept a three-game suspension for being late to a game.

He spent the 2000-01 season with the Los Angeles Lakers and was suspended five games that season for violating the league's anti-drug program.

He joined Denver the next season and was waived in November 2001 after playing just 10 games with the Nuggets. Rider never played again in the NBA.

It’s almost a cliché when talking about a professional athlete who was loaded with talent that went mostly unfulfilled.

Rider always took pride in the fact he never forgot his roots, which were embedded in the tough streets of Oakland’s east side. Despite the fact he was an up and coming NBA star in the early 90s, he could just as easily be found in his old neighborhood playing a game of dice on the sidewalk.

I guess it’s true what they say. You can take a kid out of the mean streets but you can’t take the mean streets out of the kid.


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