Though his on-court play was, at times, electric, Darius Miles would probably make the short list of players Portland Trail Blazers fans never want to hear about again. After acquiring him from the Cleveland Cavaliers in January of 2004, the Blazers inked Miles to a long-term deal. His career went south almost immediately due to injuries and Portland obtained a medical waiver to clear his obligation off of their salary cap. An attempted comeback with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008 voided the waiver, costing the Blazers cap space at the exact time they needed it to move forward around young stars Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Greg Oden. The marriage between the Blazers and Miles ultimately proved unhappy.
As it turns out, “unhappy” may have been an apt description for much of Miles’ life and career. This week he penned an autobiographical column for The Players’ Tribune titled, “What the Hell Happened to Darius Miles?” In it he describes growing up in East St. Louis, his struggles with physical and mental health, the high points of being drafted and becoming an NBA star, and the low points of life afterwards, including the pain of losing his mother after her long struggle with cancer.
When you’re in the NBA, people think you’re a superhero. Maybe you think you’re a superhero, too. But there’s all kinds of stuff going on under the surface that nobody has any idea about. My momma battled three different cancers while I was in the league ― liver cancer, colon cancer, bone cancer. When I think about all the teams I played for after L.A. ― Cleveland, Portland, Memphis ― what I remember first is the doctors and the hospitals in all those cities.
I was dealing with all that for most of my career, and I was just … burying it, you know? I prided myself on standing tall through it all and never breaking. I never cried ― not once. My people were dropping like flies when I was in the league ― homies, cousins, my grandmomma ― and I never cried, not one damn time.
Miles also explains how easily fortunes are earned and lost in professional sports:
If you read the headlines about me now, it’s all about me going bankrupt. People ask me, “Man, how can you lose all that money?”
That part is easy to explain. You already heard that story a million times, with a million players. The cliche is that guys go broke buying Ferraris or whatever. Listen, it takes a long time to go broke buying Ferraris. What makes you go broke are shady business deals.
They’ll make the money disappear quick.
Miles also touches on some lighter moments, including coming down with adult chicken pox at the exact moment he finally made it into upper-echelon NBA social circles and the origin of his famous “double head tap” celebration that swept the country.
The article is well worth a read for a host of reasons, not the least of which is that it turns Miles back into a three-dimensional figure for Blazers fans.