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Disbelief over Rex





Bob Watkins

Bob Watkins

One can almost hear editorial brain cells bubbling at Sports Illustrated. Plans spinning for the next hot rehab story. Make that a series.

Title? How I Lost My Way and Journey back from Bad Behavior. Subjects: – Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson and whatever name Metta World Peace is using these days, and Rex Chapman.

Rex Chapman! A thief? On a Shock and Disbelief meter this one rates a 9.0.

But there it was in fuzzy black and white, a stark and resigned, almost pleading stare. Rex Chapman in standard police mug shot.

Dateline Scottsdale, Arizona, September 19, police spokesman Mark Clark told media that managers at an Apple electronics store “alerted police to the thefts in August and multiple employees recognized the thief as Chapman ‘ based on his previous celebrity status as an NBA basketball player.’”

Arrested for allegedly taking $14,000 worth of items to a pawnshop and selling them. Booked on nine counts of organized retail theft and five counts of trafficking in stolen property, all felonies, Rex Chapman.

The news in Kentucky is another blow-to-the-brain for the good-hearted across our state who revere basketball heroes. Good folks who’ve already been slapped in their collective face by a Dan Issel bankruptcy; Derrick Miller, then Ed Davender, then Richie Farmer gone to prison.

The fall of one-time wonder boy Chapman is more than sad, it’s hateful news. The kind that fuels anger and resignation we normally expect from negative-attack politicians desperate to get elected.

Pinnacle to puzzling

I believe, the pinnacle of Chapman’s basketball life happened before the nickname King Rex (bad idea) stuck. Before the celebrity and fame, and before big money too.

Winter 1985-86, Chapman and his Owensboro Apollo team made a 32-minute showtime, sailed through a 25-5 season. The Skinny One high jumped opponents, floated down the lane, was ball-inhand magical, a veritable wizard. The Skinny One made college recruiters drool, NBA scouts too.

In spring 1986, after pocketing a Mr. Basketball Award, things began to go south. Here came the ugliness. Skin color and showme the-money. Basketball was business. v Chapman wanted to play for Denny Crum at Louisville, but was persuaded his economic future would be better served at Kentucky. Two years on, at 21, he would be rich, eighth pick in the NBA Draft by Charlotte who would average 16.9 points as a rookie. v In 1986 UK returned three starters from a 32-4 season. Leading scorer the following season (18-11), freshman Chapman. His media share spawned hints of team discord and resentment. v Following year, with NCAA sanctions imminent, and suffocating hero-worship and grumblings about his dating habits, Chapman led the 25- 5 Wildcats with 19 points a game. He left UK.

Then, strangely, a string of puzzling remarks from Wonder Boy left some of scratching our heads. v In 2005 Chapman uttered his first absurdity — that Allan Houston and Derek Anderson were overlooked by Kentucky sportswriters in high school because they were black. v Turning darkly, he told a reporter his going to UK was seen as “the great white hope.”

In truth, Houston, two-time all-state and Mr. Basketball in 1989, seldom saw a Louisville newspaper or television news cycle without his name included. Wade Houston’s kid was praised by media then and arguably still rates as the finest high school player in Kentucky history.

Anderson, a star at Doss High, was like a long list of in-state high schoolers before and since, labeled too skinny and a ‘tweener by coaches at UK and UofL. He signed with Ohio State, transferred to Kentucky and earned his way to fame, prosperity and a UK degree in pharmacy.

And his great-white-hope idea was a cynical notion from a minority of miserable racists he chose to validate.

Chapman’s assessments were, to be kind, puzzling.

Fast forward to March, 2014. Chapman’s mouth went flapping again. Citing a reliable source, he guaranteed the next Los Angeles Lakers coach would be John Calipari. When media scrutiny grew hot, Chapman retreated.

Then came August in Scottsdale. Chapman allegedly started stealing things. His arrest last week, the shame and embarrassment that comes with it, is hard to swallow.

But, wait for it: Redefinition of Kentucky’s wonder boy — Sports Illustrated big seller in, say, 2018.

And so it goes.


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