The NBA's Candy Addiction Epidemic Exposed

Mike Walsh@WalshWritesCorrespondent IApril 8, 2013

Jan. 24, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA: Phoenix Suns interim head coach Lindsey Hunter with forward Michael Beasley against the Los Angeles Clippers at the US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Clippers 93-88. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

David Stern has less than one year remaining as the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, and this is not the kind of farewell tour press he wants to be dealing with.

There have been plenty of hazy spots throughout his tenure with the league. He oversaw the relocation of six franchises, ratified a league-wide dress code and, of course, suffered through four crippling lockouts. 

The NBA's candy addiction, though, may present the biggest black mark on his 30-year tenure as commissioner.

Things have hit a fever pitch and fans are demanding answers after the latest development in this story. In an exposé conducted by the Arizona Republic's Paul Coro, Phoenix Suns forward Michael Beasley revealed a Skittles addiction that rivals any other sugary dependence the league has seen.

Beasley cannot be satiated by any less than six or seven bags of the Mars Inc. candy. Things have gotten so bad that he is forced to hide his addiction from team officials. 

"I don't bring them to the arena anymore," Beasley admits to Coro. "I just eat them at home and keep them to myself."

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Beasley's paranoia speaks to the rumors that Stern has feelers out spying on teams and individuals with a checkered candy past. He'll want this potential public relations disaster kept on the down-low and left to the same conspiracy theorists who believe the draft lottery is fixed.

Not since Tim Donaghy and the gambling referee scandal of 2007 has Stern had to go into crisis-mode to prevent his league from being permanently tarnished. Things have recovered nicely from there, and the league is at all-time highs in popularity. Even after last year's lockout stole 16 games from each team's season, fans kept coming back.

With Beasley's testimony on record though, will fans finally start to bail on the corn syrup-covered mess of an NBA season? 

The former No. 2 overall pick has had a host of off-the-court issues. Most of them have stemmed from the small offense of smoking or being around marijuana. The real issue here is his sweet tooth, which has become far more than a case of the munchies. 

The obsession with the colorful candy has been a part of Beasley's life for some time, however, it is now catching up to him. In order to feed his addiction, Beasley signed a three-year deal with the Suns worth $18 million. How much of his $6 million each year that goes to fund his obsession is unknown. 

It has definitely affected his play though, which has to be of even more concern for Stern and the league. The flashy scorer coming out of Kansas State was set to be one of the league's most popular and talented offensive players. Unfortunately the weight of expectation and addiction has seen his shooting percentages drop like a stone since 2008.

Now Beasley is playing just 20.9 minutes per game and shooting 40 percent on a 23-54 Suns team. One has to wonder what could have been for the 24-year-old. There is still time for him to get clean and become the player he was once advertised as, but for that to happen he'll have to give up the rainbow.

Beasley is really just the next domino to fall in the NBA's rash of candy addicts. Derrick Rose got clean after nearly missing the NCAA national championship game in 2008 because of a gummy bear overdose.

Rose may still have a snack now and then, but he has been able to keep Stern's agents in the dark. A 2011 case that had Rose miss a couple days due to stomach ulcers could be the result of a minor relapse.

The Chicago Bulls have to hope he returns soon from his ACL injury, because as they say, idle hands are the gummy bears' playground.

Person zero for the NBA's confectionery collision may very well be the Los Angeles Clippers' forward Lamar Odom. 

Lengthy documentary-style films have been produced detailing his addiction, not unlike that of former boxer Dick Eklund. The "Pride of Lowell's" battle with crack cocaine may have been more serious, but Odom's obsession is just as hardcore.

"I just do it all day, I just can't help it," admits Odom to ESPN. "You only live once, eat as much candy as you can eat."

Those are the words of a man with an incurable addiction. Odom's actions in recent seasons, including quitting on the Dallas Mavericks and going on a reality show binge, can be explained by his struggle with his chocolate idols. Khloe Kardashian may not realize this, but she is only an enabler at this point.

Odom may have found a friend he can lean on in their battle towards recovery in fellow Clipper Caron Butler. Known as "Tuff Juice", the 33-year-old once ran on up to six cans of Mountain Dew a day.

Ben Reiter @BenReiter

Caron Butler lost 11 pounds and endured sweat-soaked sleepless nights because he gave up Mountain Dew this summer. http://bit.ly/4aOD5h

A player known for his intensity and toughness, Mountain Dew seems to fit Butler to a T. He is right in the wheelhouse of the Dew conglomerate that floods the streets and our senses with their caffeinated soft drink.

NBA fans should all pray that Beasley gets the help he needs, whether it is from Stern or new head coach Lindsey Hunter. He is still just a young man trying to survive in the most grueling and difficult sport and league on the planet.

How many NBA players will have to see their careers crumble at the hands of candy giants? If there is one thing David Stern is remembered for come next February, I hope it is for cleaning this sport up of all it's cavity-related crimes.

Let's put a stop to this epidemic.


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