Herbs and Hoops: Marijuana’s Future In The NBA

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Written By William Richardson Jr.

If you had told me that medical marijuana could be legalized for professional athletes a few years ago, I probably would have laughed in your face. Or at least blocked you on all social media. 
But now in 2017, we’re looking at something that is on the verge of being brought to the table as a serious alternative to prescription painkillers for athletes. 

The reason this is being brought to the forefront is because former NBA commissioner David Stern, the guy that virtually revolutionized the modern NBA, came out on record during an interview with former NBA player Al Harrington for The Uninterrupted and said that medical marijuana should be removed from the ban list. 

No, you didn’t read that wrong. 

Yes, the same David Stern that implemented a dress code in 2005 because he felt the league’s image needed improving after the “Malice In The Palace” fight that happened the year prior. The same guy that vetoed the Chris Paul trade to the Lakers because of “basketball reasons.” 

So imagine my surprise to see Stern be an advocate of its usage. 
Honestly, it makes perfect sense. I’m a firm believer in doing whatever you need to do to alleviate your pain in serious medical situations. If you have cancer, recovering from a major surgery, or have some other serious medical condition, I’m all for you using medical marijuana. But professional athletes should be added to that list. 

Consider the average schedule for an average NBA player for a second. In a seven-day period, players may have one off day, if that. So add the fact that they practice at least twice a week, have shootarounds. Then add the fact that players could have up to three games a week, plus traveling, and it’s easy to see how players could get addicted to painkillers. 82 games a year on top of the regular things players have to go through every week, it’s astounding that medical marijuana hasn’t been legalized sooner. 

In that interview with Stern, which you can watch above, Harrington mentioned that he had used medical marijuana to recover from a surgery in the last three years of his career and never failed a drug test. 

Never.

Yes, Harrington was on the tail end of his NBA career when he started using medical marijuana, but he was able to compete and play well this year in the Big 3 basketball league at 37 years old, even leading his team to the championship and winning. Harrington even went as far to say that maybe 70% of all professional athletes all smoke grass, a claim that would be bananas if it was true, but that brings up so many questions about why aren’t we having the discussion in the first place. 

To put this in perspective, imagine how beneficial it could be to have players like Gordon Hayward with his destroyed foot, a Derrick Rose in his prime with the Bulls coming off all the knee injuries, or Dwyane Wade battling various injuries over the course of his career, being able to use medical marijuana as a part of their recovery process. 

And in the NFL, could you imagine all the players that have been diagnosed with CTE (the brain disease that has taken the lives of many big-name former football players over the past few years) or the players that were addicted to painkillers that could have avoided them entirely if they used medical marijuana? 

Granted, it would be up to the owners of the teams and current commissioner Adam Silver to vote on it, and medical marijuana would only be legalized mainly in states where it’s already legal to possess marijuana, but it needs to be an option.