THE battle continues for the ‘Black Superman.’
Billy Ray Bates, the former Portland Trail Blazer and arguably the best import who played in the PBA, makes a return to the spotlight as part of the Where Are They Now special of Sports Illustrated magazine’s July 4 issue.
It’s a revealing piece by L. Jon Wertheim, who started writing about Bates since the mid-90’s and has kept in touch with the once popular Blazers and PBA player for years.
There hasn’t been much news about the former Crispa and Ginebra import after his comeback to the country in 2011, when what was supposed to be a 4-day stay for his induction into the PBA Hall of Fame became a 15-month stint filled with controversy.
Bates had lived with his then wife Beverly and two stepdaughters in South Jersey where he had a job of gluing handles on leather briefcases, which paid $7 per hour. Then came the whirlwind comeback in October 2011 and the humbling trip back to the US in January 2013.
“I’m still alive, so there’s that,” the 60-year-old Bates greeted Wertheim when the two finally reconnected after a long time. Then Bates recalled he’s broke and had a short stint in an alcohol rehab center.
“A lot has happened—know what I mean? I made a lot of mistakes, but I keep pressing forward,” he added.
Bates now lives alone in a small apartment in Anaheim, California, thanks to the Illumination Foundation that helps Southern Californians to find shelter.
He says he’s happy even as he’s still struggling to find a steady job. He’s not completely sober, admitting to drinking on occasion, but Bates asserted he’s turned back from his past life as an alcoholic and drug user.
The once popular PBA import also plans to go back to school, specifically in the Argosy College that’s near his apartment, and earn a degree to help him land a decent, full-time job and maybe buy a car or a truck. And Bates hopes to finish his autobiography Born to Play Basketball soon that could possibly draw the interest of filmmakers and make a documentary out of his life.
“People will know what happened to me and hopefully that will lead to a movie deal,” said Bates.