By ROSEMARY BARNES

Big break for former addict

Basing his whole identity around basketball was former NBA player Daryl Braden’s biggest mistake

Daryl Braden
Daryl Braden helps children excel in their schooling and progress spiritually at neighborhood youth centers run by Memphis Athletics Ministries (MAM)

It is easy to envision former NBA Spurs player Daryl Braden gliding down the basketball court, evading defenders and making a signature dunk to the roar of the fans. The hard part is imagining how this gentle giant's life spiraled out of control after his playing career ended at age 40.

For the best part of two decades Daryl enjoyed amazing international success as a small forward. He played two seasons in the NBA's San Antonio Spurs from 1981, followed by stints in China's national league CBA, the European league, as well as league appearances in South America and Mexico.

"I enjoyed the game, the travel, the fame, the people I met and all that life had to offer," Daryl remembers.

However, he had a serious problem that was only uncovered when his career ended.

“I had to trust God when others would not trust me”"Frankly, the success in the game had made me arrogant. My ego helped me develop an 'all about me' attitude,'" Daryl admits.

As basketball was for him "all I knew, it was my identity," Daryl honestly confesses that the sudden loss of prominence led to a crack cocaine addiction that lasted for 10 years.

Hoping to change his life, he moved from Memphis to Nashville, but ensuing homelessness led to stealing cars and a three-year prison term.

His wakeup call came when he asked for money for his addiction from his brother, who instead gave him the address of a drug treatment center.

"I was offended at first," Daryl says. "But then, for the first time in 10 years, I saw I was not just hurting me but also those who loved me more than I could love myself."

Daryl checked himself in to Harbor House, a Christian-based drug rehab center in Memphis.

Although he had been raised by parents who instilled "godly values" throughout his childhood and was baptized at age 12, Daryl says his understanding of God was very little, but he knew God was not finished with him.

"I was praying to God [during my time of addiction] to deliver me because I knew He was able. From an early age, I knew that if I wanted to be successful that God had to be head of my life."

At Harbor House, Daryl says, "I grew closer to God like I had never experienced before."

As he fully committed his life to the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in Him for forgiveness and restoration before God, Daryl says that he came to know that "the real 'Source' of my life, peace and prosperity is Jesus!"

Daryl Braden teaches

As an ex-addict and ex-convict, Darryl explains, "It is hard to find a job. People do not want to hire you; they do not trust you. I really had to trust God when others would not trust me."

Since he has great expertise in sports, Daryl volunteered for three years for a Christian based youth program called Memphis Athletics Ministries, which offers year-round mentoring programs in 10 neighborhood centers, including academics, financial literacy, life skills, spiritual training, and sports, to youth aged eight to 18.

Daryl then completed the degree he started at the University of Alabama decades ago, and says he went back to MAM because, "After I had graduated, I was standing in a meat locker at a job I had taken and thought 'there has to be more in life for me than this'".

Now free of his drug addiction for 11 years, Daryl works full-time at MAM, mentoring youth to put God first, and education and good character second and third.

He does this, he says, because "God delivered me from a life of sin, and my arrogance and self-centered attitude, so I could be of service to Him.

"Because of who God is, I try to be the best person I can be. I still make mistakes, of course, but God is faithful and forgives my sins," Daryl concludes, quoting 1 Peter chapter 5, verse 10.

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