As a child, David Vaughn dreamed of making it as a player in the National Basketball Association. As a young man, the Memphis native realized his dream by signing a multi-year deal with the Orlando Magic. With a $600,000 paycheck, the former first-round draft pick was living large. On the road, he stayed pampered at the Ritz Carlton. At home, he lived in a mansion and collected far too many cars. Money slipped through his fingers as the purchases for jewelry and clothing skyrocketed.
Either David didn’t have someone in his life warning him to save a portion of his earnings, or he wasn’t listening to their good advice. One way or the other, by the time his four-year NBA career was over in 2003, David was out of money and unable to maintain the lifestyle to which he had grown accustomed. As his professional world skidded to a halt, so did things at home. Arrested for domestic violence, David was ordered by the court to stay away from his wife Brandi and their two children.
That’s when David ended up living on the streets. He’d spend the nights in his Chevy Impala, or the homeless shelter when space was available, or sometimes in the grungy storage shed a buddy rented to him for $39 a month. In a recent interview, David says, “I went from the pinnacle of having it all, to the pits of having absolutely nothing, and seeing no light at the end of the tunnel. I was a mess, but I didn’t want to end up in hell.”
He got close.
David ended up in a hospital with numerous spider bites on his foot which had become so infected, there was talk of amputating the limb to prevent losing his leg. Although the court had ordered David and his estranged wife to remain at least 500 feet apart at all times, Brandi came to the hospital and, putting on what amounted to a full-court press, pleaded for him to move home.
Since that time, the couple has worked on forgiving each other while rebuilding their lives. David admits, “I made a lot of bad choices. Now I just want to get a decent job, drive a truck, be a security guard, maybe coach a little. I’d be happy with that life. My wife stuck with me through the hard times—and I’m grateful—and we made it through the storm.”
David’s story isn’t the first time a professional sports figure hit hard times after their career ended. But there are several elements of his journey which resonated with me, not the least of which was the fact that he and his wife did the hard stuff necessary to reconcile and start over. I’m also reminded of the invaluable role of a mentor in a young person’s life. David had been professionally coached on the court, but evidently hadn’t been coached in the ways of responsible living.
In a way, David’s story encourages me to continue my efforts coaching my sons, Trent and Troy, into the wisdom found in scripture. As Proverbs 22:6 puts it, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Talk about a high calling!