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Former NBA All-Star Vin Baker’s Redemptive Journey Home

He squandered millions of his earnings and ended his playing career battling alcoholism. Today, Vin Baker is writing a new chapter in his life that reminds us to never lose hope. Read Transcript


REPORTER: When a straight path turns to winding road,

the hope is that the journey brings a return.

Vin Baker's basketball Odyssey has.

You can always come home.

I've been well-traveled, but Full Gospel Tabernacle

in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, has always been home for me.

It just reminds me of my beginnings, spiritually.

My earliest memories is singing in the choir at nine years old,

so it will always remain special to me.

It is the prodigal son.

I have returned home and I'm happy to have come home

to a feast.

REPORTER: What does Old Saybrook still bring?

You know, I see people that I grew up

with, went to high school with, and they're all

wonderful people.

I have great friends here.

People that I know differently.

Here I'm not Vin Baker, I'm just Vinny.

This is where you did sixth, seventh, and eighth grade.

Yes.

This was my school and I had a great time here.

Now it's the Old Saybrook Recreational Center.

This is where Vin, Jr. and I come in to work out,

and this is where I got him ready for Boston College.

It's where you got your livelihood,

it's where you got your name.

You had a distinguished basketball career.

University of Hartford, being the leading scorer there,

All-American, drafted eighth pick, Milwaukee Bucks, 1993.

And then, of course, having so much early success.

NBA All-Star, all-NBA, Olympian, my own brand Jordan shoe.

So really a lot of wonderful things that basketball

brought me.

REPORTER: When was the peak of your NBA career?

My first year in Seattle, 1997-1998.

Won 61 games and the number-one seed going into the playoffs.

I went from being an All-Star to the next level I won,

and so that changes your whole title.

You become a winner.

So you inherit opportunities by coming to the NBA,

but you also get a lifestyle.

Mm-hm.

If you're not capable of having discretion,

then you'll fall into it.

I didn't come from a party background,

but once I started to drink and hang out and party,

it went from casual fun to, I really need to drink.

Now I have to do it to survive because my body is not

responding without one.

So it got really bad.

Did you drink during games?

Yeah, there were times when I had to--

I think the pressure of maintaining this level

of basketball made me anxious.

And I would have withdrawals, the shakes.

The noise of the crowd.

Then I would drink during games to maintain an even keel,

otherwise I would be anxious, my body shaking.

Maybe I'm not as good as I thought I was.

Because I didn't realize I'd become an alcoholic.

REPORTER: No more hiding.

Your game falters.

You're traded to Boston.

You're found out.

Suspensions.

Releases.

You lose your career and everything with it.

VIN BAKER: The name Vin Baker at that time wasn't good.

All the stories, all the rumors, all the money lost.

I couldn't fight it at that point.

I was already humbled.

He knew I was broken.

What did rock bottom look like?

VIN BAKER: I was just spiritually empty.

Losing everything that I had gained and worked for

wasn't rock bottom.

Rock bottom part was when I didn't

feel connected to Christ.

I just felt there was no one I could turn to, including God.

I had done so much wrong with alcoholism,

and some of the choices that I morally made

was against God and everything that I stood for

and everything that He wanted me to be.

The in and out of rehabs.

This last one was different.

And didn't you tell them, I'll be out in a week?

VIN BAKER: I had a real conversation with the Lord.

"I need you now."

And I cried out.

Going to rehab, all I needed was to get physically well so

that I wouldn't have seizures.

But my spirit was made up and then

I knew that the maintenance was going to be coming to the Lord

and coming to church and prayer.

Usually these stories end in death.

But the awesome part is you can change

the ending of the story around.

The only way to face that head-on, the only way

to turn that around, is through Christ.

REPORTER: To get back on his feet,

when reached out to one of his former NBA owners,

Starbucks executive director Howard Schultz.

I consider Howard family and a close friend,

and he did take a chance on me.

And I'm grateful for that opportunity

that he gave me to come in here and put this green apron on.

And to wake up in the morning to open up a store for 4:30,

a lot of peace.

Coming out of recovery, I needed a place

where I could grind and work, literally and figuratively,

out a lot of things that I was going through spiritually.

And this is where I found that place, at Starbucks.

More pressure at an NBA free-throw line,

or taking the drive-throughs and their customized multiple

orders?

VIN BAKER: I would say taking the customized orders.

A caramel macchiato can be very difficult to make

when it's got to rush out.

REPORTER: Does unconditional love look different to you now?

Oh, gosh.

It means everything to me, because at one point

I thought I was not loved by anyone.

I was in such a bad place I didn't think I could be loved.

And that's when I found out that His love was unconditional.

The Bible says new mercies every morning,

so I wake up every morning needing a new mercy.

I have six years of sobriety, but I need you today.

I have a healthy fear of my past,

and a great adoration and respect for the Lord.

REPORTER: Vin is now ordained.

His recent book, "God and Starbucks,"

offers a raw and honest account of his NBA life and redemption.

It's been a wonderful and beautiful process,

you know, coming back home to my wife and my children.

And my son signed with Boston College on scholarship

to play basketball there.

Now I've had the opportunity to go back and do broadcasting

with Fox and the Milwaukee Bucks.

It's part of the redemptive process.

They took a chance on me and I'm just truly blessed

to be back in Milwaukee.

How do you maintain the perspective

that there was purpose even in the worst of it?

VIN BAKER: I am convinced that everything

that happened to me in the NBA had

to happen in order for me to get a God perspective,

in order for me to change my life,

and more importantly, help other people change

their perspective on addiction or help to save lives.

It went from a "why me?" to "why not me?"

And then when you can get to the "why not me,"

big changes can happen.

I knew there would be joy in running back to God

and running back to a forgiving father.

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