Since professional sports emerged as an economic juggernaut in the mid-20th century, athletes have lived life under a microscope. They are no longer just athletes; instead, they are considered brands, which means their personal lives are of public interest.
Sometimes the added interest works in a player’s favor. When an athlete has a squeaky-clean reputation, it can lead to enhanced financial opportunity. That player might be rewarded with a fatter contract from his team (example: Jaylen Brown) or build a robust sponsorship portfolio (Patrick Mahomes).
But the microscope works against the athletes whose personal lives are not-so-squeaky. The NBA has a long history of star players getting into trouble with the law (e.g., Shawn Kemp, Allen Iverson, the Portland ‘Jailblazers’). But lately, it’s been difficult to keep track of all the legal troubles involving young hoops stars. It seems there’s a new headline every day.
October 2022: Josh Primo Released
Alabama’s Josh Primo was selected No. 12 by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2021 draft. After spending only one season in college, he was the NBA’s youngest player in the 2021-22 season. He played a minor role for San Antonio that season – and then his San Antonio tenure ended only four games into the 2022 campaign.
In October 2022, it was revealed that Primo had allegedly exposed himself to multiple women. The Spurs quickly released the then-19-year-old. The team’s sports psychologist filed a lawsuit against Primo for indecent exposure, and Primo said he was beginning mental health treatment for previous trauma. “It is our hope that, in the long run, this decision will serve the best interest of both the organization and Joshua,” Spurs CEO R.C. Buford said in a statement.
Primo didn’t play in the league during the rest of the 2022-23 season. He signed with the L.A. Clippers this fall.
October 2022: Bouknight’s DWI
23-year-old James Bouknight spent two seasons at UConn. He was suspended and faced several charges for allegedly fleeing a car crash during his freshman season, but his tenure in college was otherwise clean, and he was productive on the court. In the 2021 draft, the Charlotte Hornets took him No. 11 overall – one pick before the Spurs selected Primo.
Bouknight played in 31 games as a rookie, averaging 9.8 MPG. At the beginning of the 2022-23 season, he was arrested by Charlotte Police for DWI. He was found unconscious in a parking deck shortly before 1 a.m. Bouknight had a .40-caliber gun with him. He has played in only one game this season.
February 2023: Miller’s Firearms Incident
21-year-old Brandon Miller was one of the top players in the high school Class of 2022 and joined a star-studded class at Alabama. Throughout a tremendous freshman campaign, Miller came to be viewed as one of the top prospects in the 2023 NBA Draft.
In February, however, Miller found himself in serious trouble. It came to light that Miller had brought a firearm to one of his teammates, Darius Miles, that was used in the fatal shooting of a 23-year-old woman earlier that year. A friend of Miller and Miles, Michael Davis, shot into a vehicle containing the woman (Jamea Jonae Harris).
Miller’s attorney argued that Miller was unaware of any intent to use the weapon, and Miller ended up free from any charges. Charlotte selected him No. 2 overall in the draft.
February 2023: Morant Feuds with Pacers
Ja Morant is one of the NBA’s most electrifying young stars, but he has had a 2023 he’d surely like to forget. The drama began in February, during a game between Morant’s Memphis Grizzlies and the Indiana Pacers. There was ample trash talk during the game (with Morant’s dad even getting involved), and after the game, Morant’s crew allegedly “aggressively confronted” the Pacers near their team bus. It got worse from there.
Later that night, a person in an SUV that contained Morant pointed a red laser at the Pacers’ bus – a laser that many on the scene were confident came from a gun. The NBA stated that “certain individuals involved” in the incident had been banned from Memphis’ home court, FedEx Forum.
March 2023: Morant Shows Gun at Nightclub
As it turned out, the Pacers issue was just the beginning of the drama for Morant. The very next month, the NBA announced that it was investigating Morant following an Instagram Live video that showed him with a gun at a Colorado nightclub following a Grizzlies loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Morant issued a statement announcing that he was stepping away from the team to address his mental health. Two weeks later, following his completion of a counseling program, Morant met with NBA commissioner Adam Silver and other top NBA executives. He was suspended for eight games.
April 2023: Mikey Williams Faces Shooting Charges
Mikey Williams is only 19 years old, and hasn’t yet played a college game, but his high profile means he also makes our list. Williams, a four-star recruit, committed to play for coach Penny Hardaway at the University of Memphis and was considered a top draft prospect.
In April of this year, however, he was arrested on five charges of assault with a deadly weapon. Police stated that, on the heels of an altercation at Williams’ home, he had fired a gun at a car full of people. Williams pleaded not guilty.
He has a big social media following, which he had leveraged into an endorsement deal with Puma, but Puma ended that deal as a result of his legal issues.
May 2023: Another Morant Gun Incident
Morant seemingly didn’t learn his lesson. Two months after his first suspension, he was suspended for flashing a gun again on Instagram Live. The firearm appeared in a livestream on the account of Morant’s close friend, Davonte Pack.
Silver said he was “shocked.” Morant was suspended for 25 more games.
September 2023: Kevin Porter Jr.’s Final Issue Takes Him Out of League
Kevin Porter Jr., a five-star recruit, played one season at USC. He was suspended early in his time as a Trojan for “personal conduct issues,” but he finished the season nicely and was selected No. 30 overall in the 2019 draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, who immediately traded him to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
After his first season in the league, Porter Jr. faced a charge for improper handling of a firearm in a vehicle, but the charge was later dropped. In January 2021, Porter was traded to the Houston Rockets. During his tumultuous two years with Houston, Porter was repeatedly in the news for issues off the court. Then, in September of this year, he was arrested and charged for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend.
That proved to be the final straw. Houston traded him to the Thunder, who immediately waived him. He has not returned to the league at this point.
October 2023: Bridges Violates Domestic Violence Order
Miles Bridges has been a key player for Charlotte since he entered the NBA, but he has had trouble staying on the court. In April 2023, he was suspended for 30 games for a domestic violence incident that involved two of his children and their mother, Bridges’ girlfriend at the time.
Then, in October of this year, he was accused of violating a domestic violence order involving the woman, threatening her during a custody exchange. In an ugly scene, Bridges allegedly threw pool balls at the victim’s vehicle, smashing the windshield and threatening to withhold child support, while the children were inside of the car.
November 2023: Giddey Accused of Relationship with Underage Girl
Josh Giddey, a 21-year-old from Australia, was selected No. 6 overall in the 2021 draft after playing in the National Basketball League’s Next Stars program. Giddey exploded onto the scene, thrilling Thunder fans with his performance early in his career.
Last month, he was accused by an anonymous social media user of having an inappropriate relationship with an underage girl, a junior in high school. The user said there was photo/video evidence of the accusation, but the posts were deleted and the account was deactivated. Giddey declined to comment. Newport Beach Police and the NBA are currently investigating the matter.