It should have been the greatest night of my life—June 29, 1994, the night I was expecting to be drafted by one of the 27 NBA teams. It was a night I had dreamed of since I played Bitty Basketball as a nine-year-old.
My mother, Eunice, gathered the whole neighborhood at our three-bedroom house on Ella Street in South Dallas to watch the draft on television. She hung signs congratulating me and telling me how proud she was of me. Mama was saying, "My boy's fixin' to get drafted!" She cooked enough fried chicken and soul food to feed most of Dallas.
The first few picks whizzed by without anyone at the party paying much attention, but as the last half Whether league officials knew it for sure or not, they were right. I'd done it. I'd been of the first round started, I sat down in front of the TV to see where life and basketball were going to take me. The end of the first round turned into the middle of the second, and before long I found myself sitting almost alone. Nearly all my so-called friends had left. By the time Zeljko Rebraca from Serbia was announced as the 54th and last pick, only me, Mama and a couple of others were left in the house.
Over the next few days everyone in the neighborhood wondered what had happened to Ella Street's "sure thing." I had believed that I would be a late first-round or early second-round pick. I know some of the neighbors were wondering if my not getting drafted had anything to do with rumors that I had helped a gambling ring by shaving points during my senior year at Arizona State. I had denied knowing anything about point shaving, and everyone who knew how competitive I was believed me. Everyone, it seemed, but the NBA.
Whether league officials knew it for sure or not, they were right. I'd done it. I'd been at the center of the biggest point-shaving scandal, in terms of money wagered, in college sports history. Now I was paying the price.
Within minutes of the end of the draft, I was cruising the freeways of Dallas in my black GMC Typhoon. It was ironic because the Typhoon—with a Pioneer stereo that had 212 speakers and rims that were so shiny they sparkled—was the only thing I had left from all the clothes, jewelry and other stuff I had purchased with the money I was paid in the point-shaving scheme.
The longer I drove that night, the more depressed I became. Not only had I just lost my future, but I also couldn't tell anyone why. I could no longer dream of buying Mama a new house. I had to live a lie, always denying the truth but never coming up with another reason that I wouldn't be in the NBA.
What hurt most was lying to my mother, my best friend in the world. My father left us before I was old enough to know him, and Mama never had another child, so she and I have always meant everything to each other. It was my mother who gave me my unique nickname—Hedake. When I was little, she says, I ran around so much I gave her a headache. She decided to get a personalized license plate with that name on it, but Texas only gives you six letters on a plate. By the time she shortened the name, I was Hedake.
With Aaron Hall blaring from my stereo, I thought about how I could explain to Mama what point shaving was. Even harder than that was figuring out how to explain why I had done it. During my time at Arizona State, I had been well taken care of. I always had a nice car while I was in college—a Cherokee, two Mustang GTs, a Rodeo, a Sierra K1500. I had jewelry, clothes and a nice apartment my senior year. I always had cash in my pocket.
But I had those things because I was well liked by certain Arizona State boosters, not because I was a gambler. In fact, before I found myself in this point-shaving mess, the extent of my gambling had been shooting dice with friends in high school for one or two dollars a throw. Trust me, shooting dice at Spruce High didn't prepare me for the high-stakes gambling that swirls around college athletes.