(AP) Things looked brighter for David Harrison when Larry Bird and the Indiana Pacers made him the 29th pick in the 2004 NBA draft. David Harrison was a first-round pick in the 2004 NBA draft by the Indiana Pacers. Nine years later, things had gotten so bad financially that he had to take a job working at McDonald's.
Harrison, probably best known for his role as a rookie in the "The Malice at The Palace" brawl involving Ron Artest and other members of the Pacers, recently spoke about his life and struggles after basketball with Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports.
Harrison played four years for Indiana and made slightly more than $4.4 million. However, the 7-footer struggled in the NBA, and after averaging just 5.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in his first two seasons, his playing time dropped.
He says things hit rock bottom in the NBA in his fourth season when the Pacers switch coaches and hired Jim O'Brien. Harrison called it "the worst time" of his life, and alleges O'Brien was verbally abusive and did not want Harrison to succeed.
Harrison admits that he eventually turned to smoking marijuana every day, including both before and after practices, a recreation that had previously just been an off-season habit.
O'Brien denies that he was abusive toward Harrison but did admit to Spears that when he was first hired by the Pacers he was told "not to expect very much from [Harrison]," and that he "was not a guy you can depend on."
(AP) David Harrison, right, had a troubled NBA career on and off the court.
After Harrison's rookie contract expired in 2008, he was just 25 years old and his NBA career was over. He spent three seasons playing in China and eight games playing in the NBA's developmental league. He last played in 2012, a stint with the Dallas Mavericks' summer league team.
A year later, his credit card was rejected while trying buy his son a Happy Meal at a McDonald's. The manager recognized Harrison and helped him get a job.
"People were showing up trying to take my car," Harrison told Yahoo. "My house was in foreclosure. I didn't have any income. I just had everything going out. I have child support to one son. I have a really big family and I have to take care of them, even through I'm not playing in the NBA. I needed money."
But that job lasted just three weeks as customers kept recognizing the former player and it was becoming a distraction. Harrison says he now makes some money trading stocks but that he can't find a job. He is 16 credits short of a degree from the University of Colorado but says he can't afford to go back to finish.
At 32, Harrison says he has given up on his basketball career but is confident things will turn around off the court.
"I am confident in my intelligence," Harrison told Spears. "I am confident in myself and I have the ability to succeed. I don't have much hope to play basketball again. But to support my family and myself, I have a lot of hope in that."
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