It was the latest bump in a very bumpy season for the New York Knicks. On Feb. 25, 2014, hours after the Knicks dropped another home game, this one to the Dallas Mavericks, New York’s point guard, Raymond Felton, was arrested for criminal possession of a firearm. He was arraigned on two counts — criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree and criminal possession of a firearm. The charges stemmed from an unregistered semiautomatic handgun belonging to Felton that was loaded and had an illegal extended magazine. Felton had left the gun at the home of his estranged wife, and she reportedly turned the weapon in to authorities.
If convicted of both counts, Felton could be looking at a seven-year prison sentence. The news gets worse for Felton. New York State has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation; Texas it ain’t. Former New York Giants wide receiver, Plaxico Burress, facing similar charges, pleaded guilty to a lesser crime and still got two years behind bars.
While only the latest in a loooong list of pro athlete arrests, it was a relative rarity of sorts for an NBA player. While NFL players seem to get arrested by the roster-full, and Major League Baseball has had a recent history of several players being convicted of heinous crimes (e.g. Mel Hall getting 45 years for the aggravated assault and indecency with a child; Ugueth Urbina serving 5 ½ years of a 14-year sentence for attempted murder), the NBA has been relatively scandal-free for years.
Following are the seven most notorious NBA arrests this century.
7. Lamar Odom, DUI
Rumors of drug abuse had been swirling when on Aug. 30, 2013, Lamar Odom was arrested and charged with driving under the influence. Odom pleaded no contest to the charge on Dec. 9, 2013, and was sentenced to three years’ probation and three months of alcohol abuse treatment. Now, by current pro athlete standards, a DUI arrest is tantamount to getting ticketed for jaywalking. But, even if it were only tangentially linked to the Kardashians, Lamar Odom’s arrest on Aug. 30, 2013, for driving under the influence (he subsequently pled no contest to the charge and accepted a sentence of three years’ probation and three months of alcohol abuse treatment) would merit consideration on this list, right? Considering Odom, who was under contract with the Los Angeles Clippers at the time of his arrest, is married to Khloe Kardashian (late last year, she filed for divorce), the link was anything but indirect — meaning you could get news of Odom’s troubles on either ESPN or E! – and Odom’s place on the list became a slam dunk.
6. Portland Jail Blazers, Too Many to Mention
Sometimes, it’s about quantity over quality. Such is the case with the Portland Jail, er, Trail Blazers. From 2000 to 2003, the Trail Blazers chalked up arrests the way point guards rack up assists. Then again, in 2001, management had signed a player, Ruben Patterson, who had to register as a sex offender for pleading no contest to a felony sexual assault charge. So, maybe it was a one-for-all-all-for the-paddy-wagon approach. Over the next two seasons, Rasheed Wallace, Damon Stoudamire and Qyntel Woods – who in 2005 would plead guilty to animal cruelty for guilty to staging dog-fighting — were cited for marijuana possession. Stoudamire pulled off a trifecta, getting arrested three times for weed. After his third arrest, management fined him $250,000 and suspended him for three months. Patterson, however, was a model citizen … until Zach Randolph punched him for arguing with Woods during practice.
5. Jason Kidd, Domestic Abuse
French fries can be dangerous. And not just because of trans fats. In January 2001, while playing for the Phoenix Suns, Jason Kidd was arrested on a domestic abuse charge after his wife, Joumana accused him of assault. Specifically, she accused Kidd of punching her in the mouth when the two began arguing because Kidd had eaten a French fry off his son’s plate. During the 911 call, Kidd’s wife claimed there was a history of her husband abusing her. Kidd pleaded guilty and was ordered to attend anger management classes. Alas, there would be no happily-ever-after finish to this tale. On Jan. 9, 2007, Jason Kidd filed for divorce. He cited domestic abuse, the wife-on-hubby variety, however.
4. Delonte West, Speeding and Gun Possession
For pure head-scratching, “What the heck was he thinking … or smoking?” purposes, Delonte West’s arrest is tough to beat. The Cleveland Cavaliers guard was arrested Sept. 17, 2009, not for one firearm, not for two firearms. Nope, not Delonte. West was busted for carrying three weapons … while riding a three-wheeled motorcycle … after he was pulled over by police … for cutting off said police. After being pulled over, he voluntarily informed the arresting officer he had a gun in his waistband, apparently forgetting to mention the one strapped to his leg, and the other he had in a guitar case. Yes, a guitar case. West, who suffers from bi-polar disorder, pleaded guilty to the traffic and weapons charges. He was sentenced to electronic monitoring, probation, community service and psychological counseling.
3. Gilbert Arenas & Javaris Crittenton, Gun Possession
Raymond Felton has a long way to go before he can top this gun tale. In December 2010, Washington Wizards teammates Gilbert Arenas and Jarvaris Crittenton were involved in a locker room confrontation over gambling debts. This one, however, was atypical … both players reportedly drew guns on each other. Arenas pleaded guilty on Jan. 15, to carrying an unlicensed pistol outside a home or business; Crittenton pleaded guilty on Jan. 25, to gun possession. Two days following Crittenton’s guilty plea, he and Arenas were suspended for the rest of the season. Arenas, a three-time NBA All-Star, saw his NBA career fizzle out shortly thereafter; and he currently plays for the Shanghai Sharks. Crittenton hasn’t been so lucky. He’s facing murder and drug trafficking charges … and a long stint in prison.
2. Kobe Bryant, Sexual Assault
Kobe Bryant was 24 years old and arguably the best basketball player on the planet. He played in a city nicknamed Tinsel Town, for arguably the most recognized team on the planet. By definition, that made his legal troubles in 2003 water cooler fodder, which, for any millennial reading this, was the precursor of social media. Bryant was arrested in Eagle, Colo., where he had gone for surgery, after a 19-year-old employee of the hotel Bryant was staying at accused him of raping her on the night of July 1. Bryant fessed up to having an affair but denied sexually assaulting the woman. The criminal case was dropped in September 2004 after the accuser refused to testify, and a subsequent civil suit was settled out of court; Bryant publicly apologized to his accuser; admitting no guilt on his part, however. During the legal process, Bryant never took time off from playing – going as far as appearing in court in Colorado during the day and the court at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles the same night. For name recognition and the severity of the alleged crime, Bryant’s case would seem a slam dunk for No. 1 on this list. Unless …
1. Ron Artest, et al., Assault and Battery
Infamous, Egregious. Outrageous. No adjective can do the Malice at the Palace justice. Hands down, bar none, Ron Artest authored the most notorious arrest of an NBA player this century. Arguably, the most infamous fight in American professional sports history took place at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Nov. 19, 2004, in the waning moments of a game between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons. Last in the game, Artest fouled Detroit’s Ben Wallace. There followed the requisite shoving and other players getting involved in any generic NBA dust-up. Then things became anything but generic. While players were still scuffling, Artest was lying on the scorer’s table — at one point he even put on a pair of headphones. That’s when a fan threw a beverage on Artest. Artist went after the fan. And things sort of got chaotic, with the ensuing brawl between players and fans spilling onto the court. Nine players were suspended without pay, which led to $11 million in lost salary. Artest bore the brunt of it. His 86-game suspension, the longest in NBA history for an on-court incident, cost him almost $5 million. On Dec. 8, 2004, five Pacer players and five fans were charged with assault and battery. All five players – Artest, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O’Neal, David Harrison and Anthony Johnson – pleaded no contest to the charges.
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