Where Are They Now? / Oct 26, 2009 / 9:30 am

Where Are They Now: Isaiah Rider

Isaiah Rider

There are certain players that you always wonder what could have been. But because of poor decisions, bad luck or both – they never reached their NBA potential. Jay Williams, Eddie Griffin and Michael Ray Richardson are just a few names that come to mind. Probably the biggest example of someone who had a chance to be special but fell well short of his potential is Isaiah “J.R.” Rider.

I had always been intrigued with Rider’s talent. When I was a kid, my cousins from Alameda (Rider’s hometown near Oakland) would tell me how nice his game was. My cousins attended St. Joseph’s HS around the same time Jason Kidd went there. They would tell me how Kidd and Rider – who balled at rival Encinal High – would have epic battles against each other and how Rider would nearly rip off the rim when he dunked. I also remember watching him as a member of the Blazers (aka the Jail Blazers) kill the Jazz, particularly Jeff Hornacek and Bryon Russell, with a series of crafty post moves during the ’99 Western Conference semi-finals. To this day his grace, strength and athleticism (especially in the open court) reminds me a little of a poor man’s LeBron.

Over the weekend, Yahoo! Sports ran a great feature on J.R.’s personal demise and his slow road back to playing professional ball. Back in late August, we told you about how the 38-year-old Rider was attempting a comeback by signing with the North Texas Fresh with the ABA.

“I still have it in me,” Rider told Yahoo! Sports. “I still have something left in the tank. It’s still in my blood. My juices still flow. I know I can still ball.”

In Rider’s nine-year NBA stint (1993-2001), he suited up for the Timberwolves, Blazers, Hawks, Lakers and Nuggets. A former lottery pick out of UNLV, Rider dazzled crowds with his highlight-reel dunks and spectacular scoring ability. Because of his football body, he could post you up but could also burn you on the perimeter. As a rookie with the Wolves, the 6-5 guard used his between-the-legs, East Bay Funk Dunk to take down the ’94 dunk contest. He averaged 16.4 ppg for his career and was a borderline all-star for a couple of those seasons.

But his talent was greatly overshadowed by controversy. There was the incessant tardiness, the run-ins with police, the conflict with coaches, teammates and GMs. After Rider was cut by the Nuggets, early in the 2001-02 season, he was never signed again by a pro basketball team. In the eight years since his NBA career ended, Isaiah’s life had spiraled out of control as he went through personal problems (including losing his mother and abusing drugs) as well as a handful of legal issues. In 2006, he spent three-and-a-half months in jail for charges stemming from drug possession and evading an officer. Rider also had been arrested for drug possession, kidnapping, gun possession, assault and auto theft.

No doubt, if Rider would have had more discipline and guidance in his life, he could have been an all-star multiple times in this league. He had the potential and talent to lead the NBA in scoring. Rider has been working hard to get his life and career back on track. In the Yahoo! article, he said he trimmed his weight and is clean now. He hopes his ABA experience will lead to higher paying gig overseas or perhaps another shot in the league.

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  • jzsmoove

    His cockiness overshadowed his talent. Exciting but garbage nonetheless. Garbage not worth recycling.

  • Sideswipe

    I remember those days with the Blazers and Lakers. I’ve always rooted for him but too many bad choices/decisions just killed his career. Imagine what he could’ve been if he had stayed on the straight and narrow. Damn.

  • Kobeef

    I can’t see any NBA GM taking a chance on a 38 year old who’s calling card was his athletic ability, but he could make a living in Europe if he can keep his life in order.

    I don’t get how he ever got the name J.R. His name is Isiah Rider Jr.

    “Junior” Rider = J.R.?
    Jr. = J.R.?

  • Eduardo

    Have you guys ever heard about Kevin Widemond, former San Jacinto College Guard? Man, he was playing here in Portugal(I’m from Portugal by the way) and he died yesterday at the halftime with a cardiac arrest. Sad news for the basketball world. He was just 23 man, damn.

    R.I.P. Kevin.

  • the_don_mega

    @ Eduardo – i read about the story on espn… that’s pretty sad…

    http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/news/story?id=4595275

  • Kermit The Washington

    Man, too late dude…38 years is waaaay too late to try to get your act together and make a comeback. Where was this when you were, I dunno….30? 32? 34? Wow. Cats RETIRE at 38, bro…

  • flegman

    yahoosports already did it

  • Soopa

    Dear lord that dunk is sick! Remember his behind-the-back-ish 3 pointer going out of bounds? Highlight machine!

  • That’s whats up

    whatever happened to Richard Dumas?
    He was crazy athletic and a serious weapon for the Suns for a year or two.

    Where is that dude?

  • Diggity Dave

    Richard Dumas had MAJOR drug problems. Another waste of talent. J.R. changed his name to Isaiah early in his career, not sure why.

    Rider is a classic case of an ego gone wild. He could have been a lot, but right now, he’s just a lesson.

  • Diggity Dave

    By the way, more on Richard Dumas:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Dumas

  • BiG ShoT BoB

    Right on for the shots out to the bay Gerald. I grew up out here watching those same rivals. J.R. also had his own record label in that time – Rider ent.

  • dagood

    even in europe he’s got max 2 years left to make a little money. But after that, dude has got to think of another way to make some dough – could be very very tough for him

  • http://www.petsocietyhelp.com Pet Society Help

    Richard Dumas? I remember that fool hurting himself on his first dunk in a nba slam dunk contest, I even remember the camera panning to shaq to show him crakin up.

  • bill

    Isaiah Rider used to kill ball movement and use the post which would not fit with a championship team.

    Discuss :)

  • Jazz Man

    This is my cousin…he was very much talented…part of his demise was trying to take care of those he thought was family…also when your being told how great you are from your peers its hard to take critacism and want to focus and get better…but our family is full of ballers including Ed Gray (Cal)…No one will get at him unless his attitude is changed though…He Needs To Go To Houston Where The Other JR Is…JR is for jr. Just was called J R