When discussing a dream destination in a return to the NBA, O.J. Mayo listed the Milwaukee Bucks and said he owed the franchise after he failed to meet expectations during his tenure with the team, per Ben Golliver of SI.com:
"I want to go back to what I left [in Milwaukee]. I was real close with Jason Kidd. That was the best relationship I had with a coach besides [Dwaine Barnes]. I had great relationships with Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and Khris Middleton. I was comfortable there. I felt like I let them down, cheated them for two years. They paid me $8 million to be, in my eyes, a subpar player. They invested millions of dollars for me to be on top of my s---, and when you're not on top of your s---, it shows. I'll be 30 next summer. If they just give me the chance, I can make it up. I owe them."
Mayo, 29, was "dismissed and disqualified" by the NBA for two years in July 2016 for violating the league's Anti-Drug Policy. And losing the routine and camaraderie that comes with being on a team was difficult for Mayo.
"Taking the game away is probably the closest thing to jail that I'll get to," he told Golliver. "Since I was like 6 or 7, I've always had a basketball season. That was the lowest point in my entire life: The shellshock of not being in the NBA. All my peers are playing and I'm not because of boneheaded mistakes. Take the ball away, what is there to do?"
Ryan Jones of Bleacher Report spent 10 months reporting on Mayo, and was unable to find anything "concrete" about Mayo's status despite talking to 40 of Mayo's "former teammates, coaches, agents, GMs and players union reps."
But over the summer, Mayo began working out with a group that included Bucks forward Tony Snell, Memphis Grizzlies forward James Ennis, development coach Chris Johnson and trainer Travelle Gaines.
"Can I please get in there with y'all?" he asked of the group. "I won't talk. Please make me better. I love basketball. I cheated the game for three or four years. I want to give my all back. I want to prove I'm a professional, low-maintenance guy."
The coaches agreed to take Mayo on, and he's since been undergoing full-day training sessions that include skill work, weightlifting, yoga, shooting drills, scrimmages, a vegan diet and a sober lifestyle. He's contemplating playing in either China, Spain or Israel this year as he attempts to make an NBA comeback once he is eligible to be reinstated next summer.
There's little doubt that a dedicated Mayo can contribute in the NBA. While he never became a superstar after the Memphis Grizzlies selected him third overall in the 2008 NBA draft, he averaged 15 or more points in three of his seasons. He was less productive by the time he got to the Bucks, however, and never averaged more than 11 points.
Now, Mayo is trying to get his career back after losing it for two years.