Rex Chapman was a special player and person, which makes the news of his shoplifting arrest more sad and perplexing. When Chapman showed up at Kentucky for college in the mid-80s he was a dream every Kentucky hoop fanatic already had–a white guy who played like, well, not like a white guy. (This may sound controversial, but it’s plainly true. Rex Chapman was open-minded, even in a difficult environment. He openly dated black women even though the university asked him to “hide it.”) And Rex was one of the first cats–Wildcats, that is–who brought a dunking swagger to Adolph Rupp Arena and also looked like so many of the fans there. Chapman could sky and for a little while he lived up to his first name–Rex, of course, means king.
Rex Chapman hung around the NBA for a dozen years (Charlotte, Washington, Miami and Phoenix), and made quite a bit of money. But his career finished in 2000, before giant money was customary for second-tier talent. (He was never the enormous star in the pros that he was in college.) AP reports that Chapman allegedly stole merchandise from an Apple store “seven times and sold the items for cash.” When Chapman was having one of his best years as a pro in 1988, the former Miss America Bess Myerson admitted to shoplifting in a case that shocked the country. Rex Chapman was never Miss America, but he was Mr. Kentucky for a while. It may have been the thrill as much as the money.