These types of stories are all too familiar with pro athletes, but this one is on another level. Former Indiana Pacers player David Harrison was a highly respected player coming out of college and the Pacers drafted him in the first round of the 2004 draft. He made close to $5 million in his short four year career before fizzling out and not being able to handle the pros. He wound up wasting all the money and having to take a job at a McDonald’s years later.


Yahoo! Sports published a feature on Harrison, a former McDonald’s All American — chronicling his up-and-down NBA experiences that eventually lead to him becoming a broke stoner who took a job at McDonald’s five years after playing his last NBA game.

“An NBA career is a fragile thing,” said Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who coached Harrison with the Pacers. “It tips on the slimmest of margins one way or the other. There are a lot of guys who get a taste of it. David had some pretty good years for us when I was there.”

Harrison played in the McDonald’s All-America Game in 2001 after being a two-time Mr. Basketball in Tennessee. The 2004 All-Big 12 first-team pick was a starter in three seasons at Colorado and averaged 17 points and 8.8 rebounds as a junior during the 2003-04 season. The Pacers drafted him with the 29th overall selection in the first round of the 2004 NBA draft.

“I never felt more helpless than when I was guarding him,” said ex-Colorado forward Chris Copeland, now with the Pacers. “In college he was unbelievable.

“He was a special athlete. He was very misunderstood. A smart guy. A deep thinker. When you’re that intelligent and that deep with your thoughts, sometimes people don’t understand where you are coming from.”

Harrison detailed his journey and how ended up working night shift at McDonald’s.

Harrison was at an Indianapolis-area McDonald’s in August 2013 when his credit card was declined while trying to buy his then 4-year-old son, Dylan, a Happy Meal. The manager recognized him, gave him the meal for free and offered to help him get a job at McDonald’s. Harrison said he took him up on the offer and was hired for the night shift at another McDonald’s.

Harrison said he had a hard time working because customers would often want to talk after they recognized him – or they were just fascinated by his height. He left after two weeks.

“I wanted to be around people and not be a hermit in the house,” Harrison said. “I took the midnight shift on purpose. I did two weeks of training. They told me I would be a distraction because I was. Every time someone would order, it would take them 40 minutes to order because they were asking me too many questions.”