Just think about this.…
At 18, I’m selling baggies on the corner in Takoma Park, getting robbed at gunpoint.
At 22, I’m getting drafted into the National Basketball Association, shaking David Stern’s hand.
Guess where the draft was held that year? Washington, D.C.
How the hell do you explain that?
Steve Francis, in a masterfully written piece for The Players Tribune, details his rise from the streets selling crack, to plane rides with Hakeem Olajuwon. Stevie Franchise was seemingly on a fast track to greatness before washing out of the league at the mere age of 30.
Now in recent times, he’s more known for people who wonder if he was on crack.
I had some dark days, no question. And I know people were asking, “What the hell happened to Steve Francis?” But the hardest part was reading some bullshit on the Internet saying that I was on crack. When I thought about my grandmother reading that, or my kids reading that … that broke my heart. Listen, I sold crack when I was growing up. I’ll own up to that. But never in my life did I ever do crack.
What happened to Steve Francis? I was drinking heavily, is what happened. And that can be just as bad. In the span of a few years I lost basketball, I lost my whole identity, and I lost my stepfather, who committed suicide.
I just let go, man.
I just let go.
The entire piece is well worth your time. Before the glitz and glamour, Francis was a high school drop out on the corner with a crush.
It’s funny, I remember telling people, “I’m going to marry Janet Jackson one day.” Janet Jackson was the flyest girl in the world to me. But I’m 15 years old, on food stamps, small as hell, growing up around crack addicts, and I can’t even play high school ball. How am I gonna get out of here and see what’s up with Janet?
So I stayed on the corner, doing what I had to do to survive. It was messed up. I’m not glorifying it. I got robbed at gunpoint a million times. I got my ass beat a million times. I saw drive-bys. But honestly, if you ask me what really scared me the most, it wasn’t the guns. Shootings were almost … natural. I mean, what do you think is gonna happen when you’re in the streets? The scariest thing was the drugs. The needles, man. The pipes. The PCP. The people slumped over with that look in their eyes. It was everywhere. These were regular people — nurses, teachers, mailmen. The mayor of D.C., Marion Barry.
When the Players Tribune initially launched, this is a textbook example of the exposure behind the curtains they aimed to unveil. From giving Gary Payton the blues as a rookie to Hakeem telling him he dressed like a bus driver, there’s a lot to unpack in this one.
Flip the page for video of Steve Francis describing his upbringing in the DC area .