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Roy Tarpley’s lawsuit is just another brazen ploy

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, March 19, 2009
RANDY GALLOWAY

From the Dept. of Beyond Belief, a sports-related story hit the wires this week telling us a troubled name from the past, Roy Tarpley, was a just-say-yes-to-drugs financial winner.

This can’t be right.
Except it says right here, via The Associated Press, "a settlement was reached in Tarpley’s $6.5 million lawsuit against the National Basketball Association and the Dallas Mavericks, based on Tarpley’s contention both parties had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act."
Roy Tarpley?
Beyond a cranky basketball knee in his playing days, this guy didn’t have a "disability." What he had was a powerful addiction.
An addiction to cocaine, booze and even McIlhenny Tabasco Sauce, which when used to excess caused Roy to miss games with a bad stomach.
Frivolous lawsuits are nothing new in this country, but how can a stone-cold drug addict get a financial settlement 20 years later by hiding behind an otherwise important piece of legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act?
Nothing personal here, because back in the day, I liked Roy. You couldn’t help but like Roy. Except for his demons, Tarpley was a pleasant chap with a wonderful, caring mother. I’m always a sucker for anyone with a good momma. And so was the great Don Carter, the former owner of the Mavericks.
Most of you need no introduction to Tarpley, but his jock kingdom story is one from the ’80s and early ’90s, so the kids in the audience may need a brief explanation:
Roy, to this day, ranks as the biggest train wreck in local pro sports history, and that covers a lot of wreckage. He was also the best player in Mavericks’ history, and for those who might want to dispute that, I can amend it to say Roy was the best talent in Mavs’ history, and there will be no argument.
As a comparison in games, think Dirk without the consistent 3-point range, but Tarpley was a 7-footer with a nice perimeter touch, except he could also go inside and work post-up or just get dirty in a no-blood, no-foul time when the NBA paint was for men only. Or totally different from today in the physical area.
Roy was also a ferocious rebounder with some defensive skills, at least when he wanted to apply himself in the defensive area. Tarpley or Dirk? I’d take Tarpley every time and that’s not an insult to Dirk.
The Mavs took a chance in the 1986 draft by selecting Tarpley, out of Michigan, with the seventh pick, despite being aware of drug use in college.
Right away, there was potential stardom, being selected first-team all-rookie, and then the next season, winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award by averaging 14 points and 12 rebounds. The Mavs were beaten in the Western Conference Finals that season by the Showtime Lakers.
But ...
Bright light, big city. The coke and the booze became a problem, although the Mavs kept that under wraps while sending Tarpley to counseling and treatment.
Then his third season here, and trouble arrived. Tarpley had a knee injury, meaning idle time. He failed mandatory drug tests (in other words, he knew he would be tested but still consumed the coke), and in January of ’89, the NBA suspended Tarpley.
Even when reinstated the next season, Tarpley had DUI arrests, more knee problems and, finally, he failed a third drug test in 1991, and was banned for life by the NBA. After kicking around on European teams, the NBA lifted the lifetime ban and allowed Tarpley to return to the Mavs, who greeted him with open arms in 1994.
Once back, Roy didn’t appear to be the same prime-time player, but at age 29, the Mavs had given Roy a six-year, $20 million contract.
In the NBA, that .... money was guaranteed, unless
Sure enough, Tarpley failed a drug test in 1995, this time for booze. He was kicked out of the league again, never to return. Twenty mil, flat blown. And to this day, Tarpley is said, not surprisingly, to be flat busted.
As his own worst enemy, it took a mountain of gall, and a lawyer, for Tarpley in 2007 to file a lawsuit, which said in 2003, at age 37, the NBA wouldn’t clear him to play again, therefore he was discriminated against because of a "disability." And a government agency — the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — agreed this man had a disability, meaning his addiction, so he couldn’t be denied the right to work. Hence, a lawsuit.
Common sense tells us Roy had at least six chances to get it right in his Mavericks career, and failed every time.
This week, we learned Tarpley actually collected on that lawsuit. Beyond belief.
Except based on some info coming out of New York City, the Mavericks paid nothing, and the league settled it as a "nuisance" case. The money? Not even close to the $6.5 million Tarpley was asking. Not even seven figures. Not even six figures. Pick a number between one dollar and $99,000, and split the difference. That was about it.
But still ...
If Roy Tarpley got some money for food and rent, I guess that’s OK. It’s just that he used the Americans with Disabilities Act to scam his way to any kind of settlement.
A once potentially great player should be ashamed, but, obviously, nothing has changed with Roy. All these years later, and he still has no shame.
Randy Galloway can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on Galloway & Co. on ESPN/103.3 FM.