Dancing With The Devil

Life On The Road In NBA Basketball

"We are the best physically built guys. We can run all day, we can jump, we can party all night, and you get away with things that normal guys don't get away with," says Darryl Dawkins, known as Chocolate Thunder.

Dawkins played pro basketball for 14 years: "No matter how beautiful your wife is at home, there's a girl on the road that looks a little better, smells a little sweeter."

Angela Wilder was married to NBA great James Worthy: "I was very, very naïve. The bigger the star you are, the bigger pool of women you have. That's natural."

Both Darryl and Angela know the world of professional basketball. And when Kobe Bryant publicly admitted cheating on his wife, Vanessa, it hit home. Correspondent Erin Moriarty reports on this broadcast that first aired last fall.
"I thought I was going to spill my cookies," says Angela. "I just feel it. It's visceral for me. I've been there, done that."

Angela and James were married for 12 years and have two daughters. Their storybook romance began back in 1981 at the University of North Carolina.

James Worthy was the big man on campus, and Angela was a cheerleader. After Worthy led the Tarheels to the national championship his senior year, the pros came calling. As a Laker, Worthy soared and became a superstar in a world where athletes are treated like royalty.

"That feeling of entitlement, that whatever I want, I can have, and that feeling of invincibility. It's a lethal cocktail," says Angela.
"Guys get weak, they get lonely. It happens," adds Dawkins, who went straight to the Philadelphia 76'ers from a small, southern town.

To him, life on the road was beyond his wildest dreams: "You walk into a hotel. There are girls lined up in there with their high heels on and boy they look good! And they're like, 'Hi cutie.' You know you're not cute, but all of a sudden she's calling you cutie so you become cute."

Like Bryant, Dawkins was just 18 when he was drafted straight out of high school.

"At that age, you're built like a man and you feel like a man and you're making money like a man," says Dawkins. "But you're still going to make child decisions."

And sometimes, he admits, children simply don't know when to stop: "I remember instances where you can be in the room with some woman and another woman would be downstairs calling saying, 'Hello, you ain't doing nothing up there. I'm down here with it all.' So you'd be like, 'Ok, hurry up and get this one out of here.'"

And Dawkins says it happened to him, too. In fact, one of his affairs led to a child, whom he helps support. "It happened," he says. "I would just leave it at that. It happened."
Left at home like most NBA wives, Angela believed her husband would resist the temptations on the road: "I thought I had the man of my dreams. My prince. And that there was no one or no thing that could break us up."

But she found out differently one day in 1990, when she discovered that her husband, James Worthy, had been arrested and charged with solicitation for prostitution.

"Everything that existed before that moment no longer existed," says Angela. "I didn't have a great marriage. My whole life just shattered."

She struggled to save her marriage for five more years: "I wanted to be the Cosby family. He wanted to be a man who was free to be with other women. We were living two separate lives and the two were not going to meet."

"It's like a big candy store and you can have anything you want," says Lynda Huey, who knows all about an athlete's life on the road.

Back in the '70s, Huey spent her days running track, and her nights pursuing sexual trophies.

She says her greatest conquest was NBA star Wilt Chamberlain, who himself once bragged he had sex with 20,000 women. Lynda remained close friends with Wilt until he died. Today, she's an aquatherapy expert, and says a player's life can be an empty one: "I would say that in retrospect, it was a destructive lifestyle that I had to recover from."
Now divorced from James Worthy, Angela Wilder has written a book about the lessons she learned as an NBA wife. Her children, Sable and Sierra, are now 14 and 12, and they remain close to their father.

"He's a great dad," says Angela. "James is a very good guy. He really is."

As for Darryl Dawkins, now 47, the only babes Darrell is seeing these days are his own: Nicholas, Alexis and stepdaughter, Tabitha.

"I love my life now. I wouldn't have it any other way," he says.

Dawkins now coaches the Valley Dawgs of Pennsylvania, and he's written his own book - a cautionary tale about life in the fast lane.

So what if his son wants to follow in his footsteps? "I'm travelling with him," he says. "I gotta keep him out of trouble."

  • Rebecca Leung

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