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A Bad Trip
Gary McLain
March 16, 1987
The Downfall of a Champion
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March 16, 1987

A Bad Trip

The Downfall of a Champion

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And then: Oh, let me try a one-and-one. I can handle it.

I had played well on coke, I had played bad on it. It didn't seem to matter. So I did about a quarter gram of blow before the national semifinal in the bathroom of room 135 of the Ramada Inn, about three miles from Rupp Arena.

In the locker room I was all quiet and subdued. Everybody was saying, "You all right? You all right?" I said, "Yeah, I'm with it. Let's do it. Let's do it." But in the meantime I'd gotten it in my head that if we lost, it didn't matter. I just wanted the season to be over. That was my attitude.

The next thing I knew, Andre Turner, the Memphis State point guard, was kicking my ass in the first half, being a pain. I couldn't move half the time because he was matching every step I made. Luckily. I was able to gain control, and we were great as a team. I played almost the whole game, made all five of my free throws and scored nine points. We won 52-45.

I thought about how crazy I had been to do coke before such a big game. I was scared. First of all, how did we win? Second, how did I play like that? Third, so what? We were there. In the finals.

It was time to party again. The rest of my gram went that night. That was the last time I did coke at the Final Four. Not that I wouldn't have done more if I could have. I tried to get more and couldn't find any. I realized what drugs were doing to me. but I couldn't do anything about it. Yet I still felt I could control myself when I had to.

Before the championship game I was walking around the locker room in my jockstrap, yelling to everybody: "Yo, do you guys realize that 40 million of our home boys are going to be getting———up while they're watching this game? Do you realize how many quarts of beer that is? Do you realize how many pounds of marijuana are going 'round? Do you realize how many pounds of cocaine are being sniffed?"

Ed Pinckney and Dwayne McClain were saying, "Get out of here, man. Get out of here, Gary. We don't need that now."

I was psyched out of my brain because I knew I was going to crack Michael Jackson, Georgetown's floor leader. This was the old Gary coming out. I wasn't high, but ready to do phenomenal work out on the court. Nobody was going to take this away from me. I was going out there in the best frame of mind ever.

We all played well. And we all know what happened. We won 66-64, beating Patrick Ewing in one of the greatest games ever. I was perfect, 3 for 3 from the field and 2 for 2 from the line. I was living my dream. To win. To be on TV afterward, talking a lot. To achieve the respect in other basketball players' eyes I'd always wanted. People from Hempstead used to say, "He ain't that good, man. I don't know why he's playing." Well, that was okay. Now I could just say, "I got my ring, buddy."

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