Chris Washburn

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Chris Washburn
Personal information
Born (1966-05-13) May 13, 1966 (age 52)
Hickory, North Carolina
Listed height6 ft 11 in (2.11 m)
Listed weight225 lb (102 kg)
Career information
High schoolLaurinburg Institute
(Laurinburg, North Carolina)
CollegeNC State (1984–1986)
NBA draft1986 / Round: 1 / Pick: 3rd overall
Selected by the Golden State Warriors
Number8, 50
Career history
19861987Golden State Warriors
1987–1988Atlanta Hawks
1990–1991Tulsa Fast Breakers
1992Miami Tropics
1993Westchester Stallions
1994Miami Tropics
Stats at

Christopher Scott Washburn (born May 13, 1966[1]) is an American former professional basketball player.

College career[edit]

A 6'11" center, Washburn was one of the top three high school recruits in the country in 1984, along with John Williams (LSU) and Danny Manning (Kansas). He signed with North Carolina State University, along with future NBA stars Vinny Del Negro and Nate McMillan to form one of the best recruiting classes in the nation on a team that also included Spud Webb. A gifted athlete, Washburn combined size with speed for a big man and soft hands.[2]

During his time at N.C. State, he was caught stealing a stereo, which resulted in his being sentenced to 46 hours in jail, a five-year suspended prison term and five years of probation. During his trial, the Wake County district attorney introduced as evidence Washburn's SAT scores, which were below 500 (out of 1600, with 400 being the starting score).[3] "The coaches over there told me, ‘You already signed, you’re already in school, you just have to take the test just to get into college,’ ” Washburn said later. When they told me it didn’t matter what score I was getting, I went in for about 22 minutes. I just marked down [answers] … mark, mark, mark."[4][5]

His work ethic was also called into question.[6] Recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons claimed that Washburn was "never as good as his reputation," even as a high-school All-American. Gibbons was blasted by many N.C. State fans for suggesting that Washburn was going to break the Wolfpack basketball program, in response to coach Jim Valvano's claim that Washburn would make the program.[7]

In the full season Washburn played with the Wolfpack, he averaged 17.6 points a game and 6.7 rebounds, sharing time in the front court with future NBA players Charles Shackleford and Chucky Brown. Washburn's best outing was against future top NBA draft pick Brad Daugherty and UNC on February 23, 1986. Before a nationally-televised audience, Washburn scored 26 points as the Wolfpack upset the then-ranked #1 Tar Heels 76-65.[8]

Washburn's case was one of many detailed by Peter Golenbock in his book, Personal Fouls, that effectively ended Valvano's career in 1990. While several errors in the book eventually led publishing house Simon & Schuster to drop the book (it was finally published by Pocket Books), no one disputed that Washburn was a poor student. In January 1989, Richard Lauffer, a former chair of the physical-education department at N.C. State, claimed Washburn's grades had been altered to maintain the player's eligibility.[9] Both the university counsel and two members of the physical education department subsequently said they had reviewed Washburn's file and found no evidence to support Lauffer's allegations.[10]

NBA career[edit]

Washburn left N.C. State after the 1985-86 season and was selected by the Golden State Warriors with the third overall pick of the 1986 NBA Draft. He was the third consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference player taken in that draft, following North Carolina center Brad Daugherty (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Maryland forward Len Bias (Boston Celtics).

The Warriors brought in center Joe Barry Carroll to help Washburn's development but to no avail. The highlight of Washburn's career might have come in an October exhibition game in his rookie season against the Knicks. In a 23-point loss, he scored 16 points. Tendinitis in his knee led Washburn to taking anti-inflammatory medicine, which led to a kidney infection in January 1987. On January 28, he checked into a Van Nuys, California drug rehabilitation clinic, admitting to having a cocaine problem. After returning to the Warriors in late March, the player remained ineffective.[11]

Washburn played 72 games over two seasons (1.5 seasons with the Warriors and part of another with the Atlanta Hawks), averaging 3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. He is widely considered one of the biggest busts in NBA draft history. In 2005 Sports Illustrated named him the second-biggest NBA draft bust of all time.[12]

While with the Hawks, Washburn was asked by the media on how he felt about the team playing an exhibition game in the Soviet Union. Washburn snarled "Russia? I ain't going to no Russia!"[13][14]

Washburn received a lifetime NBA ban in June 1989 after failing three drug tests in three years. In the mid-1990s, he tried to scrape together a basketball career in minor leagues, playing for a few years in the Continental Basketball Association and the U.S. Basketball League. He also played overseas in Argentina, Puerto Rico, Greece, Spain, Switzerland and Colombia.[15]

Post-playing career[edit]

Washburn later moved to Houston, where he was destitute and says he lived in abandoned buildings and crack houses and ate out of garbage containers.[15] He eventually kicked his drug habit and reached out to others trying to overcome drug addictions.[4]

Washburn now resides in Conover, North Carolina. He and his girlfriend started a fried chicken business in his hometown of Hickory, North Carolina in 2012, but the business was closed in 2013.[15][16] In May 2014, Washburn was arrested for obtaining property under false pretense[17] when a passenger in his SUV allegedly failed to pay for gasoline.[16]

Washburn's son Chris Jr. played basketball at the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP)[18] before transferring to Texas Christian University in 2013.[18] He has another son, Julian, who played for UTEP.[19]


  1. ^ "Ex-NC State star Chris Washburn hopes his story will help others". Yahoo Sports.
  2. ^ "Washburn's Kids Making a Name for Themselves - Wolfpack Hoops".
  3. ^ "Lawrence Journal-World - Google News Archive Search".
  4. ^ a b Marc J. Spears, 'Washburn traveled long road to recovery', Yahoo! Sports, July 15, 2010.
  5. ^ "N.C. St. Took Washburn Despite Low SAT Score". latimes.
  6. ^ Will The Sleeping Giant Ever Awake?
  7. ^ " - Off-court problems derail Washburn".
  8. ^ "Chris Washburn". College Basketball at Archived from the original on 2014-12-04.
  9. ^ "Rough Week for Valvano and North Carolina St". The New York Times. 15 January 1989.
  10. ^ "Rough Week for Valvano and North Carolina St". The New York Times. 15 January 1989.
  11. ^ "Washburn traveled long road to recovery". Yahoo Sports.
  12. ^ NBA Draft Busts
  13. ^ "Star-News - Google News Archive Search".
  14. ^ "Chris Washburn, of the Atlanta Hawks, when told about the..." tribunedigital-orlandosentinel.
  15. ^ a b c "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-02-19. Retrieved 2014-11-28.
  16. ^ a b "Former NBA player accused of stealing gas in Hickory".
  17. ^ "Former NBA player, Hickory native Chris Washburn arrested on felony charge". HDR - Hickory Daily Record.
  18. ^ a b "Former UTEP forward Chris Washburn transfers to TCU". CollegeBasketballTalk.
  19. ^[permanent dead link]


External links[edit]