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From Addiction to Recovery: John Lucas II

Published on 10. 20. 2015

At one time, John Lucas II was an up-and-coming athlete with an addiction that nearly destroyed his career. Today, he has several years of recovery under his belt and spends his time helping young athletes make good choices so they don’t make the same mistakes he made.


Lucas was born in North Carolina, where he graduated from high school before attending the University of Maryland. He excelled at sports and was an All-American performer in both tennis and basketball. The young athlete was selected by the Houston Rockets in the 1976 draft. During his career, Lucas also played for the Golden State Warriors, Washington Bullets, Seattle Supersonics and Milwaukie Bucks. 

Many people didn’t realize Lucas was struggling with addiction, or that he was suspended from the NBA several times between 1982 and 1986 and was waived twice. However, the truth came out in a big way in March, 1986. This was the proverbial “rock bottom,” when Lucas woke up from a night-long blackout in one of Houston’s seedier neighborhoods. He reports waking up wearing several pairs of socks, no shoes, and a suit soaked in his own urine. He was late for practice with the Rockets and was released by the team after a subsequent drug test showed positive for cocaine.  

The gift of desperation

Lucas entered treatment willingly, spending several weeks at a California rehab center followed by intensive outpatient treatment in Houston. He became active in the Twelve-Step program, which he continues to this day. In a magazine interview, Lucas admits treatment forced him to admit that he needed help to regain control of his life. “I was an excellent athlete with a bad attitude and a career hampered by drugs,” he said. 

Upon completion of rehab, he returned to the NBA and played with the Milwaukie Bucks. He retired in 1990, after a total of 14 years with the NBA. He went on to serve as coach for several teams, including the San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers. Lucas also holds a graduate degree from University of San Francisco, and at one time, operated a number of treatment centers for athletes struggling with addiction. 

Life after basketball

Lucas says that at one time, his primary purpose was getting high, but recovery has given him a tremendous gift, which he refers to as “the gift of desperation.” Today, his focus is helping others, which he considers part of his recovery.  Lucas continues to work in drug and alcohol treatment and has counseled or mentored a number of young athletes, several of whom went on to achieve successful careers in the NBA. He also spends time speaking with high school students. 

Can Hawaii Island Recovery help me with my addiction?

Hawaii Island Recovery offers comprehensive, evidence-based treatment for substance abuse in a tranquil environment that supports healing of mind, body and spirit. We are able to provide assistance to those who are struggling with addiction to alcohol or drugs. Just give us a call at 866-390-5070 if you need help with a substance abuse problem, or if you are concerned about a friend or family member. We’re here to help!


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