Coach John Lucas has a long history of helping athletes, from superstar professionals to youngsters in after school programs, stay away from drugs or find recovery from addiction.
This Sunday—SuperBowl Sunday—the pro basketball icon and person in long-term recovery will join other sports greats and artists for the first annual SoberBowl Superfest in Houston.
His answer is honest and simple: when the organizers approached him, he thought the idea of combining his background of working with athletes and sports with that of music and the arts to create a festival venue safe for sober folks who want to watch the SuperBowl, was a solid idea.
“Thirty-one years ago I was given the gift of desperation,” Coach Lucas said. His recovery path took a lot of twists and turns as he struggled to figure out who he was and why he did the things he did while drinking alcohol and using other drugs.
But once he finally realized that basketball was what he did, not who he was as a person, there was no looking back.
In 1986, John Lucas Enterprises (JLE) founded a wellness and aftercare program primarily for NBA and NFL players. Lucas says one of the primary strategies in working with athletes is helping them “come to believe they have to surrender to win—a hard concept for athletes.”
In the 1990s, JLE started a program called Students Taking Action Not Drugs (STAND) which was first a crisis center but later expanded into a hotline for teens and a school-based program in nearly 80 schools in the Houston area.
Today, after 14 years as an NBA player and more than a dozen coaching, Coach Lucas is the director of player development for the Houston Rockets. And his companies—John Lucas Enterprises (JLE) and the John Lucas Foundation—continue to champion sobriety and healthy living. Both companies are sponsors of SoberBowl Superfest.
The event, billed as “counter culture party space,” will kick off at 11 a.m. on Sunday with yoga at the White Oak Music Hall, 2915 N. Main Street in Houston. From 2-5 p.m., the free show will feature musical guests Royce da 5’9”, Carolyn Wonderland, FINLAY, Tommy Gunz and the Texas All-Star Band.
In addition to Coach Lucas, NBA and NFL greats John Lucas III (Minnesota Timberwolves), Willie Tullis (Houston Oilers) and Ryan Leaf (San Diego Chargers), will be on-hand.
The grand finale, the official NFL kick-off watch party will get underway at 5:30. Coach Lucas loves the idea of an alternative to a drinking environment.
He said in a 2015 Houston Chronicle interview that “addiction amputates your spirit.” One way or another, Coach Lucas will probably always do whatever he can to help save as many spirits as possible.