Steve Francis, then and now
YouTube screenshot

The story of Steve Francis is becoming more bizarre by the minute.

The latest is this: Francis, the onetime basketball standout and No. 2 NBA draft pick, was arrested in Houston on a DWI. He was accused of driving 85 mph in a 65 mph zone. When police pulled Francis over, authorities said that he smelled of alcohol. Officials said that he refused a field sobriety test and was arrested and charged. That isn't so bad, given NBA standards.

Advertisement

But according to TMZ Sports, police in Florida want Francis extradited because there's a warrant out for his arrest after he allegedly ransacked a BMW and stole several items from inside the car worth more than $7,000.

Authorities say that in June, Francis was outside the Cortez Clam Factory casing a 2003 BMW. According to officials, he asked the bartender inside the restaurant to give him a flashlight and then went back outside and ransacked the BMW, taking a "makeup pouch, wallet, gold wedding ring, gold diamond band, earrings, press credentials and $100 in cash," TMZ reports.

Two days later, Francis walked into a Florida police department carrying a plastic bag full of the stolen goods and told police, "I just robbed somebody; take me to jail. I'm turning myself in," TMZ reports.

Advertisement

Not knowing what Francis was talking about, confused police let him go. Now, TMZ reports, police have issued a felony burglary warrant for Francis and want him extradited ASAP.

How did a man who was nicknamed "Franchise" for his ability to turn a team into a winning organization fall so far? How did an NBA player's body that once looked cut up like a bag of dope fall to saggy skin and curved shoulders? It's like the Stevie Francis that used to be is folding into the Stevie Francis that is now.

Steve Francis was never supposed to be here. He was never supposed to be in the NBA after losing his mother. He was never supposed to make it after falling from being a local Takoma Park, Md., hero to being a junior college sideshow. He was never supposed to make it to the NBA, but he did. His story is the kind of legend for which movie producers Birdman-hand rub.

Francis grew up in Takoma Park. He was nicknamed "Wink," and it was obvious from early on, playing pickup games inside the Takoma Park firehouse, that Francis was gifted. In 1995, during his senior year of high school, his mother died of cancer at just 39. Francis' grandmother stepped in and guided him through two junior colleges before he landed at the University of Maryland. The hometown boy became the hometown college hero. From the day he arrived, he came with lofty expectations. He was hailed by some as "Allen Iverson with discipline."

He would star at Maryland for one year before being taken No. 2 overall by the then Vancouver Grizzlies in the 1999 draft. He publicly announced that he didn't want to play for the Grizzlies, saying that he didn't want his grandmother to have to travel from Maryland to Canada just to see him play. He didn't even think about asking her to uproot her life for him. She already had.

He was granted his wish and traded to the Houston Rockets, where he shone. During his time with the Rockets, he averaged 19.3 points, 6.4 assists and 6.1 rebounds. He would be traded to the Orlando Magic and then to the New York Knicks and then back to the Rockets, where he was a shell of his old self. At the tender age of 30, Francis had flamed out.

Advertisement

A man who once made three consecutive NBA All-Star teams now couldn't even land in the Chinese Basketball Association. In fact, video of him checking into a game with an ice pack still wrapped around his ankle became a joke shared on late-night news. The franchise was now the punch line.

Then the videos kept coming. There was the one of a seemingly intoxicated Francis inside a packed nightclub singing "Drunk in Love" and the video of him getting choked out by former NBA player Stephen Jackson in a Houston nightclub. And the countless photos showing the onetime Terrapin slowly morphing into a turtle.

Steve Francis
YouTube screenshot

The photos were so shocking that there was social media speculation that Francis was hooked on dope, rumors that Francis denied.

Advertisement

A source close to Francis claimed that there were no health issues and that Francis was just old. Francis is 39.

Whatever the issue, my hope is that the man who once came in second to Vince Carter in the 2000 dunk contest finds his wings again, because this isn't a good look.

Stephen A. Crockett Jr. is a senior editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.