Micheal Ray Richardson, Eighties Excess, and the NBA

Charley Rosen

192 pages


April 2018


$24.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

April 2018


$24.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

April 2018


$24.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

The 1980s were arguably the NBA’s best decade, giving rise to Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan. They were among the game’s greatest players who brought pro basketball out of its 1970s funk and made it faster, more fluid, and more exciting. Off the court the game was changing rapidly too, with the draft lottery, shoe commercials, and a style driven largely by excess.

One player who personified the eighties excess is Micheal Ray Richardson. During his eight-year career in the NBA (1978–86), he was a four-time All-Star, twice named to the All-Defense team, and the first player to lead the league in both assists and steals. He was also a heavy cocaine user who went on days-long binges but continued to be signed by teams that hoped he’d get straight. Eventually he was the first and only player to be permanently disqualified from the NBA for repeat drug use.

Tracking the rise, fall, and eventual redemption of Richardson throughout his playing days and subsequent coaching career, Charley Rosen describes the life‑defining pitfalls Richardson and other players faced and considers key themes such as off‑court and on‑court racism, anti-Semitism, womanizing, allegations of point‑shaving within the league, and drug and alcohol abuse by star players.

By constructing his various lines of narration around the polarizing figure of Richardson—equal parts basketball savant, drug addict, and pariah—Rosen illuminates some of the more unseemly aspects of the NBA during this period, going behind the scenes to provide an account of what the league’s darker side was like during its celebrated golden age.

Author Bio

Charley Rosen is a writer who previously worked as an NBA analyst for and whose work has appeared on He is the author of twenty-one sports books, including The Chosen Game: A Jewish Basketball History (Nebraska, 2017) and Crazy Basketball: A Life In and Out of Bounds (Nebraska, 2011). He has coauthored two books with NBA coach Phil Jackson.


“Charley Rosen, the voice of NBA history, has dialed up a biography of Sugar Ray Richardson’s experiences in life and basketball. Sugar is both a painful and empathetic experience of a man’s quest to exorcise his demons. Basketball is his expression of joy, but life isn’t that easy for Ray. It’s a timepiece on NBA basketball in the ’80s and on our society’s ability to move through the blocks of our racial issues.”—Phil Jackson 

"Richardson is one of the least-remembered NBA stars of the eighties. He was a four-time all star, three-time steals leader, and two-time All-Defensive selection. Suspended four times for drug use—and ultimately banned from the game—he was also the poster child for the abuse scandal that nearly did the league in during that period. . . . Much of the book tracks Richardson's career, with commentary from
Richardson himself, who takes full responsibility for his fractured life. . . . [Sugar] should provide fans of today's worldwide, multibillion dollar NBA with an understanding of the league's history."—Wes Lukowsky, Booklist starred review

"Those who are interested in learning more about controversy in 1980s NBA and particularly about Richardson, will benefit from this engaging book."—Anna Faktorovich, Pennsylvania Literary Journal

"With Sugar, Rosen illuminates some of the more unseemly aspects of the NBA during the 1980s, going behind the scenes to provide an account of what the league's darker side was like during its celebrated golden age."—Jason Schott, Brooklyn Digest

Table of Contents

Prologue: December 27, 1985—Moonachie, New Jersey
1. Living on Dreams
2. Living the Dream
3. Big Man in the Big Apple
4. To Fix or Not to Fix, That Was the Question
5. Moving from Coast to Coast to Coast
6. Playing It Straight . . . for a While
7. Life after Death
8. The Great Migration in Black and White
9. Back in the USA
10. The View from the Bench
11. Sunk Once More
12. The Wild, Wild West
13. The Most Shameful Playoff Series in the History of Professional Basketball
Epilogue: Whither Sugar Ray?
A Note on Sources

Also of Interest