FORT WAYNE, IN. (WANE) – Chris Porter still sees the cover from time to time. A year ago in Bakersfield, California a stranger approached Porter with the cover in hand, seeking an autograph. He claimed he had driven four hours just to have Porter sign it.
It’s not the kind of attention usually associated with a 35-year-old forward playing out the final years of his basketball career in the NBA Development League. Chris Porter also isn’t your average D-League veteran.
While today he serves more as a locker room leader for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants – 15 years ago Porter was arguably the most electrifying college basketball player in America. He was the exclamation point on a high-flying Auburn Tigers team that was taking the SEC and the country by storm. In it’s 1999 college basketball preview issue, not only did Sports Illustrated label the Tigers the nation’s number one team, they put Porter on the cover. The cover treatment from the worlds most prestigious sports magazine is something often associated with legendary athletes – and for a time – Porter was that. But shortly after the cover hit the newsstands – Porter’s career hit a brick wall.
Just three months after being on the cover of SI – Porter was finished at Auburn. The star forward had accepted several thousand dollars from an agent in the hope of helping his ailing mother. It’s a mistake that Porter admits today was a costly one. A star in college – he slipped all the way to the 55th pick in the 2000 NBA Draft, landing with the Golden State Warriors. After a promising rookie season – more trouble. Shortly before the start of his second season Porter was arrested for possession of cocaine and marijuana.
He never played in the NBA again.
Instead – Porter began a basketball odyssey that would take him across the globe. There were multiple stints in the CBA with the Dakota Wizards in North Dakota. He spent seasons in Italy, Puerto Rico, China, South Korea and the Philippines. Still – he couldn’t outrun his legal issues. Subsequent drug related arrests in 2006 and 2010 pushed Porter to his breaking point before he made a conscious decision to turn his life around.
The veteran joined the Mad Ants in December of 2012 and has been providing a lift to the franchise on and off the court since. His presence on the floor is one of constant hustle, while in the locker room he provides perspective and wisdom to younger players.
Still – the cover remains an integral part of his life all these years later. Porter calls it one of the greatest accomplishments of his career and insists he has no regrets about how his life has played out – saying only that as long as he has basketball, he’s just fine.