Book Reviews

“SUGAR: Micheal Ray Richardson, Eighties Excess, and the NBA” By Charley Rosen

Book review at Knup Sports

Tom examines the NBA career of Micheal Ray Richardson and how drugs, sex, and arrogance ruined his NBA career.

The NBA was in serious trouble in the 80’s. Drugs had become rampant. It is said one of every three players were freebasing. Sex was prevalent everywhere the players went. Racism was common among the players, referees, and owners. The game may have been on the Eve of Destruction.

Richardson grew up in Lubbock, Texas and was happy to get out of town. His mom, who was the love of his young life, moved to Denver after the father of her children left them. Things were a bit better there except that Micheal was a stutterer. It is said that 90 percent of kids stop by age 12 with professional help. He wasn’t one of them. He was part of the one percent of adults that continue to stutter. It caused him anguish as a child with others making fun of him. Micheal retaliated with anger.

There were male adults in his life that tried to help him in life situations. His elementary principal got him involved in basketball. This started the roundball success. He was the star in high school which made things better as kids no longer made fun of him. From there it was off to college in Montana after being recruited by Jud Heathcote.

His dream to the NBA was established and he signed just under $1m and with that, he bought a Mercedes-Benz 450SL and had SUGAR embossed on the stick shift. The early part of the NBA was difficult and Micheal didn’t lay much. Things improved his second season and he was off and running. The world fell to his feet. He could have anything he wanted.

This is where the partying started and he began a life with drugs. He couldn’t help himself. He loved sex and was sleeping with every girl he could, even though he had a young wife and a baby. It was said he loved to have sex with white girls just to show the power he had over them.

The story goes on to where he continued with drugs and got caught. He didn’t get caught once or twice but three times. Three strikes and you are out! He was banned from the NBA. This was his lowest point. It was basketball that he loved more than drugs and women.

He made it back to basketball after many years of clean living but it wasn’t easy. He became a coach in the CBA and that was a difficult transition for him. Just to be plain here, there are tons and tons of backstories in this book that I am not going to let you in on as the book is a better reference for those. I did enjoy the take on how Michael Jordan’s father died.

This is a good book with lots of realism to the depravity that was part of the NBA in the 1980’s. The league was close to not surviving. It is all in this book.

I would like to thank the University of Nebraska Press for sending the book to me in return for a fair and honest review.

About the Author:

Charley Rosen is a writer who previously worked as an NBA analyst for and whose work appeared in He is the author of twenty-one sports books including, The Chosen Game: A Jewish Basketball History and Crazy Basketball: A Life in and Out of Bounds. He has coauthored two books with NBA coach Phil Jackson.

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