When Greg Anderson was a freshman at Houston in 1983, his usual means of transportation was a 10-speed bicycle. Seeing the 6' 10" Anderson pedaling across campus instead of sitting behind the wheel of a late-model car—like so many other top college athletes—was an odd sight and a refreshing one. The bike, friends said, was his Cadillac, and before long he had a new nickname: Cadillac Anderson.
This sweet story has followed him throughout his 10 NBA seasons as a backup center with six teams (last season he played for the Atlanta Hawks), which is why, even though he is 34, the image of Anderson as an unpretentious teenager lingers. But the stories going around about Anderson these days are dark tales, and they are being told by the FBI.
Anderson and three other men, Kenneth Blackmon of Houston, Howard Hill of Jackson, Miss., and Kevin Porter of Biloxi, Miss., were indicted on June 25 on charges of conspiracy to sell cocaine. Anderson is scheduled to stand trial on Oct. 5, but according to an affidavit by FBI special agent Matthew Campbell filed with a U.S. District Court in Mississippi in support of the indictment, Anderson has already confessed to his involvement in the drug deal, and he helped authorities gather evidence against Blackmon, whom he has known since high school. Anderson declined to speak to SI for this story.
People who know him are nearly speechless as well. They have a hard time reconciling this case with the Anderson they know, the man who almost always found a roster spot in the league largely because of his friendliness and his ability to steer clear of trouble, the player who took a young teammate aside and counseled him against using marijuana. Anderson was so well-liked that two teams, the Hawks and the San Antonio Spurs, brought him back for second tours of duty.
Oliver Brown, the track coach at Worthing High in Houston when Anderson was a high jumper there, remembers him as a gawky teenager. "The basketball coaches didn't want anything to do with him," Brown says of Anderson's high school days. "I worked with him on skipping rope and playing hopscotch to develop his coordination."
A few years later, when he was a freshman at Houston, Anderson was backing up Hakeem Olajuwon. He went on to become a star himself and was drafted in the first round by the Spurs in 1987. "No one would have believed he'd be in the NBA," says Brown. "No one would have picked him to be in this mess, either."
Certainly no one would have expected Anderson to be in this mess once he became an established pro, if only because he didn't appear to need the money. In addition to pulling down a hefty NBA paycheck for 10 seasons (averaging 73 points and 6.2 rebounds), he spent two seasons in the Italian League, 1991-92 and '92-93, during which he was paid a total of $6 million. "This is not Cadillac's style," Gary Hahne, a former agent for Anderson, said of his current legal predicament. "Money's not that important to him. He's not your typical greedy guy ruined by money."
But Anderson's life has grown complicated since the days he was biking across campus. His marriage turned sour, his bank accounts were frozen in the ensuing divorce proceedings, and he hooked up with an old friend of questionable character. At one point in his career Anderson was teased about being called Cadillac at a time when he was driving a Ford Taurus. Last season he gave Atlanta general manager Pete Babcock a book he had read and liked, entitled The Millionaire Next Door, that extolled the virtues of a frugal lifestyle. Most people assume that a professional athlete, even a marginal one such as Anderson, has it made financially. He would have to be either stupid or evil to throw away his career on a drug deal. By all accounts, Anderson is neither, but if he is guilty of the charges against him, he may have played his last NBA game.
"Everybody says this is a good guy who doesn't do drugs and doesn't hang out with people who do," said an FBI agent, who asked not to be identified. "He just needed cash." After Anderson was caught, the FBI agent asked him the obvious question: Why would a wealthy basketball player get involved in something like this? "He told me that his wife had just filed for divorce and that lawyers had frozen all his bank accounts and he needed money quickly," says the agent.
Tammie Anderson, Cadillac's wife of eight years, had indeed filed for divorce in April, two months before Anderson was indicted. Anderson is challenging her efforts to keep half the family's assets, citing a prenuptial agreement the couple signed in 1990 that calls for Tammie to receive $5,750 per month for "as long as Cadillac has a professional career." While the division of property was being adjudicated, a judge restricted Anderson's access to some of the couple's bank accounts and assets.