The Unfortunate Tale of Eddy Curry

Charlie ScaturroCorrespondent IJune 11, 2010

CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 28:  Eddy Curry #34 of the New York Knicks hangs his head as he awaits a free throw attempt against the Chicago Bulls November 28, 2006 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Though it may be hard to believe now, Eddy Curry was once considered one of the better up-and-coming centers in the NBA.

The seven-footer wasn’t unstoppable on the boards or a difference maker on defense, but he was a solid big who could score and take up space in the paint.  Those qualities were enough to make him a fairly valuable player in a league that was (and still is) starved for productive centers.

It seems somewhat strange, but Curry was actually an aspiring gymnast growing up in Harvey, Illinois before he realized that he could be a dominant basketball player, thanks to his combination of size and skill.

Once Curry decided to direct his attention toward the game of basketball, he began to experience immense success. 

During his senior season in 2001, he led his high school team to a second-place finish in the state of Illinois and was selected as the state’s Mr. Basketball. 

Curry was also selected to the McDonald’s All-American team in 2001 and performed well-enough against the other top high school players to be named the MVP of the game. 

Amongst all of this success, Curry decided to enter the NBA draft and forego the collegiate experience.

After being taken by the Chicago Bulls with the fourth overall pick in the 2001 NBA draft, right out of Thornwood High School, Curry took a few seasons to adjust to the NBA game, but it was clear that he could more than hold his own in the league. 

In his first four seasons with the Bulls, Curry continued to improve his game and found himself as the team’s starting center by his third season. 

Thanks to increased playing time and having a few seasons of NBA experience under his belt, Curry emerged as the leading scorer and one of the best players on a young Bulls team that made the playoffs in the 2004-05 season.

But this is where the Eddy Curry story takes the first of many unfortunate turns. 

On March 30, 2005, during a game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Curry complained of chest pains and feeling lightheaded, both of which are serious symptoms of a heart arrhythmia. 

While Curry’s troubling symptoms seemed to come out of nowhere on that night, the Chicago Bulls organization had heard Curry complain of these same symptoms before.

During conditioning drills at Bulls training camp before the start of the 2004-05 season, Curry was taken to the hospital after again complaining of chest pains and feeling lightheaded. 

However, at that time, doctors could find no explanation for Curry’s symptoms.   

As far as Bulls GM John Paxson was concerned, both incidents were red flags that something may have been wrong with the team’s emerging star.  

Rather than have Curry play, and possibly risk another episode, the team decided to bench Curry for the remainder of the season and throughout the Bulls' first-round playoff loss to the Washington Wizards. 

In what became one of the most controversial sports stories of its day, the Eddy Curry heart condition saga had many people on both sides of the argument. 

That off-season, Curry was a restricted free-agent, only 22 years old, and coming off an impressive fourth season in the NBA, which saw him average 16.3 ppg and 5.3 rpg.  

The Bulls wanted him to take a DNA test to see whether or not he was predisposed to a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is essentially the thickening of the heart muscle that has been known to lead to sudden death, especially amongst young athletes.

This same condition was responsible for the tragic deaths of former basketball players Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis, both of whom collapsed on the court while playing and died.

The stories of Gathers and Lewis helped to publicize the seriousness of this potentially fatal condition. 

Because of the severity of this condition, the Bulls didn’t want to take any chances with Curry and risk another tragedy on the court.

Looking at the situation from Curry’s perspective, he felt he was healthy and had been cleared by doctors to play, so he declined to take the test, citing medical and ethical reasons. 

The situation was a stalemate, as both sides refused to budge to the other's demands. 

Eventually, the Bulls pulled off a sign-and-trade with the New York Knicks, which ended the dispute and gave a promising young Curry a fresh start in the biggest basketball market.

Curry would put his heart issues and the controversy behind him with the Knicks and, despite not becoming the player they thought he would during the 2005-06 campaign, he would have his best professional season in 2006-07. 

During which, Curry started 81 games for the Knicks and averaged career-highs in points (19.5), rebounds (7), and minutes (35.2). 

Curry’s performance during the 2006-07 season showed the type of player the Knicks and Bulls thought the youngster out of Illinois could become when they had acquired him. 

Unfortunately for the Knicks, Curry would only live up to his potential for one season as he regressed during the 2007-08 campaign. 

The next two seasons would see Curry eat his way into newly-appointed head coach Mike D’Antoni’s dog house, as Curry showed up overweight and out of shape to training camp both seasons. 

Because of his weight issues, a few injuries, and not really fitting into D’Antoni’s style of play, Curry has only appeared in 10 total games the last two seasons.

Amongst Knicks fans, Eddy Curry has become one of the symbols of New York basketball futility for the last decade. 

Not only has Curry’s lack of production hurt the Knicks, but so has his big contract. 

Thanks to the deal he inked with the Bulls, Curry earned $10.5 million this season, and is due over $11 million next season. 

Curry’s contract has been weighing down the Knicks' salary cap. Since they acquired him and because of his inability to get on the court the last few seasons, he has been untradeable.

From a basketball prospective, Eddy Curry is now a 27-year-old veteran who may still have a heart condition, has had his share of injuries, and carries around a stigma of being lazy and overweight — not to mention being a poor defender and rebounder who wasn’t even able to get on the court for one of the worst teams in the NBA the last few years. 

It is an understatement to say that things seem pretty bleak for Curry from a basketball perspective right now. 

As bad as things look for Eddy Curry’s on-the-court prospects, his problems off the court have made anyone who is familiar with them realize that basketball might be one of the last things on the seven-footer's mind.

On top of Curry potentially living with and playing through a serious life-threatening heart condition, which he has refused to get tested for, he has gone through a myriad of personal troubles. 

In July 2007, Curry and his family were robbed at gun point in his suburban Chicago home.  During the robbery, Curry was restrained with duct tape while the robbers made off with over $10,000 in cash and jewelry. 

Thankfully, neither Curry nor his family was harmed during the incident.

Professional athletes occasionally get robbed, but the allegations against Curry that came to light in 2009 were anything but ordinary. 

Dave Kuchinsky, who had been employed by Curry as his personal driver since October 2005, filed suit against Curry, claiming $98,000 in unpaid wages, as well as accusing him of sexual harassment.  The suit also asked for $5 million in damages.    

In one of the more bizarre stories involving a professional athlete, Kuchinsky alleged that Curry propositioned him for sex and exposed himself on more than one occasion, directed racial slurs towards Kuchinsky, and even pointed a loaded gun at his chauffer in an effort to keep him quiet about the way Curry had treated him. 

In the wake of these serious charges, Curry steadfastly denied that anything Kuchinsky alleged was true. 

Curry’s legal team was quick to point out that Kuchinsky’s credibility should be questioned because he was a convicted felon who spent three years in prison for a 1992 burglary, as well as serving three years of probation for resisting arrest in 2004. 

Kuchinsky’s suit against Curry has yet to come to a conclusion and is headed to a court-ordered arbitration.

Regardless of who’s telling the truth in this situation, it has certainly been an embarrassing distraction for Curry and his family and, while we may never know what actually happened between Curry and Kuchinsky, it is probably fair to say that the truth is somewhere between Curry’s side of the story and Kuchinsky’s side of the story.

Just a few weeks after Curry was handed the aforementioned suit, he was handed much more tragic and devastating news. 

On January 24, 2009, Curry’s ex-girlfriend, Nova Henry, and the couple’s nine-month-old daughter, Ava, were found dead in Henry’s Chicago apartment, having sustained multiple gunshot wounds. 

Henry and Curry’s three year-old son was also found at the scene unharmed.

Fredrick Goings, who served as Henry’s lawyer in her custody battle with Curry, has been charged with first-degree murder in the shootings. 

It has also been revealed that Henry and Goings had a relationship and that the crime stemmed from a domestic dispute. 

Curry hasn’t commented publicly about the shooting, but it must have been a very difficult and trying situation to learn that your ex-girlfriend and nine-month-old daughter were killed in front of your three year-old son. 

The most recent off-court troubles that Curry has been going through came to light just a few weeks ago, when reports surfaced that, despite making over $57 million during his nine-year NBA career, he is currently broke, and actually about $2 million in debt. 

He recently defaulted on a $585,000 loan he took out in 2008 and actually claimed that he shouldn’t have to pay the money back because he has too many other expenses. 

It is reported by the Associated Press that Curry’s expenses include; $30,000 a month in household expenses, $17,000 a month to relatives, over $1,000 a month in cable and satellite bills, and, apparently, $350,000 to NBA player Juwan Howard. 

Curry’s debt is yet another strange turn in what has already been a harrowing couple of years for his personal life. 

Curry has a player option this upcoming season with the Knicks that will pay him over $11 million, so he should be able to pay off his debts and have plenty left over. 

The entire Eddy Curry story to this point is a sad and unfortunate one, here is a person who should be on top of the world; he is a 27-year-old multi-million dollar professional athlete who had a very promising career. 

Yet, his current situation reads more like a Greek tragedy.

His once-promising professional career has evaporated, he may have a life-threatening heart condition, he is involved in one of the most bizarre and embarrassing sexual harassment lawsuits in sports, his former girlfriend and daughter were tragically killed while his three year-old son was in the same apartment, and he’s broke.                      

Many of these aforementioned hardships may very well be Curry’s fault, and this isn’t about feeling sorry for him, but it’s a shame to see a person who was given every opportunity to succeed end up where Curry finds himself today.

It’s tough to say where Curry goes from here, as he’s still only 27 years old, but it would seem that after what he’s been through, there’s nowhere to go but up.

But then again, I would have said that after pretty much everything that has happened to him during the last three years.