Stop Foolin’ Yourself, Charles

In this May 15, 2008 file photo, retired basketball star Charles ...

“My bad” isn’t good enough on this one. Not this time, Charles. Not when your own admitted gambling “problem” has has landed you in court.

Nevada’s Clark County D.A., David Roger, told the world on Thursday that his people would file a criminal complaint if you didn’t repay the $400,000 you owe to Steve Wynn’s resort. In a civil complaint filed Wednesday, it was alleged that you had not repaid four $100,000 markers “despite repeated demands.”

To your credit, you didn’t hide (you never do, actually; that’s part of your charm) and you fessed up. “I’ve been gambling for 20 years,” you told a radio station in your home state. “I’ve never had this happen before. It’s my fault I let the time lapse. I screwed up.”

You think?

It would be so easy to let this go – just like the other times when your gambling has made headlines. You and I go way back as professional colleagues and acquaintances. I covered you and your teams throughout your career and helped you write your autobiography, “Outrageous.” (The one everyone still recalls for your claims of being “misquoted” in it.)

Much of America admires you – both for your athletic career, and for your always candid (to say the least) comments on  TNT, or just about anywhere there’s a microphone.

Even your commercials make folks laugh. “Is that your dad?”, “You tryin’ to be funny?” and “Get me them socks!” are gems likely to be remembered for years.

And we believe you when you say you’re not “broke,” even though you’ve previously admitted losing more than $10 million gambling. You’ve long been smart with your money (at least the part you’re not gambling) and you’re still well-compensated for your television gig.

So what’s the issue? Let’s start with something else you’ve previously: “Do I have a gambling problem? Yeah, I do have a gambling problem. But I don’t consider it a problem because I can afford to gamble.”

Time to stop kidding yourself. A problem is a problem – particularly when it comes to addictions, such as gambling. True, most addicts manage their “problem” until it begins to affect either their health or livelihood (or both). Gamblers start missing house payments, or they get in so deep they can’t feed their family.

I presume you have no such monetary issues and clearly you’ve been eating well! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

But, again, a problem is a problem. And whether by mere oversight – “All [the casino] had to do is call and say, ‘Hey, you owe me this money,'” you also said) or not – your problem has landed you in court.

And that’s a problem.

Many of the people who care about you may agree that it’s time to take care of the problem. Perhaps this little $400,000 matter was your proverbial wakeup moment, your chance to confront the problem like it was a defender between you and the rim.

You once famously said you didn’t want to be a role model. I knew what you meant. Too many adults were allowing their children to look up to men and women simply because of their athletic gifts (and perhaps their salaries, sadly) rather than being role models themselves. You were exacting a bit of tough love on a culture gone amok.

But think about this: Some estimates say 15 million Americans display some form of gambling addiction. One reports states that three percent of adults will experience a serious problem with gambling that will cause significant debt, family issues, loss of a job, criminal activity or suicide.

Think of what kind of role model you could be for them – millions of people who can’t “afford” to have a gambling problem – by finally seeking help, dealing with your problem and encouraging others to do the same.

Millions of gamblers who, unlike you, cannot “afford” to have a problem.

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