a) you’re a Cincinnati Bearcats fan who remembers Whaley for the one underwhelming year he brought your team in 2003-04 before being forced to transfer due to off-the-court issues,
b) you’re a Raptors fan who remembers Whaley’s inclusion as a throw-in in the trade that ended the Rafael Araujo Experience, or
c) you’re a Jazz fan who remembers Whaley as being the one that was arrested alongside Deron Williams back in 2005, in an incident that saw them humiliate themselves by giving false names to the police.
Either way, your memories of Robert Whaley probably aren’t great.
A recurrent theme in that list is Whaley’s trend of getting involved in off-the-court issues. Largely unbeknownst to me until today, Whaley has been making a habit of that over the last few years. In the early hours of this morning, per the Salt Lake Tribune, Whaley was a passenger in a car when he was arrested by “gang detectives”, whatever they are, and found to have marijuana in his buttocks. Upon being processed, it also turned out that Whaley was a wanted fugitive in the state of Michigan after being convicted of running a drug house back in 2008. The obligatory mugshot follows.
2008 also marked the last time Whaley played professional basketball, and his entire career, dating back to the end of his high school years, was not exactly dignified. After almost winning Mr Basketball in the state of Michigan in 2001, Whaley spent two years at Barton County Community College, averaging 16.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, before moving to Cincinnati for his junior season. Once at Cincinnati, Whaley had more field goal attempts than points scored, and grabbed only 4.3 rebounds per 40 minutes, before being kicked off the team and forced to transfer.
Whaley moved to Walsh University, a team in the NAIA (and, not coincidentally, then-Cincinnati head coach Bob Huggins’s alma mater), and things improved a bit. Considering how far he’d moved down the basketball ladder, they rather had to. Whaley averaged 19.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game, was named the NAIA Division II Player of the Year, and led Walsh to their first and to date only NAIA National Championship. That, plus the magical word “potential”, was enough to get Whaley drafted that summer 51st overall in the NBA. No matter that he was a poor rebounder, wouldn’t play defence, was out of shape, was highly inconsistent with his scoring, had attitude concerns, suffered from big turnover problems and multiple off-court issues, had barely played to a Division I standard, and hadn’t played well when he did; he was a scoring big man who moved OK. And that’s what the NBA always feels it needs most.
Whaley’s first season in the NBA was also his last. It started ominously when Whaley earned himself a two-game suspension for throwing a punch at Adam Parada (then on the Lakers’ training camp roster) in a preseason game. And then when he started playing, it got little better. In 23 games, Whaley averaged 2.3 points, 1.9 rebounds, 0.6 turnovers and 1.8 fouls per game, shooting 40% from the field and 50% from the line. For per-36 minute fans, that’s 8.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.0 fouls and 2.6 turnovers. Whaley then missed the majority of the season after knee surgery, and then topped off his season with the incident with Williams. Robert and Deron were both with a Class C violation for lying to police after an early morning altercation at a club. A Denver Nuggets fan with the slightly awesome name of Affan Arslanagic (sounds more like a suppository) started having a go at Williams and Whaley in a club, eventually throwing a bottle at them. All three got thrown out of the place, but the fight continued in the street. When police arrived, Whaley said that his name was “Bobby Williams”, and Williams said his name was “Torrey Ellis”. It didn’t work.
At some point in the altercation, Whaley also cut his hand. He then lied about this to the Jazz, claiming that his infant son accidentally cut it with a knife. His cunning ruse was soon rumbled, however, and he was fined and suspended for two games by the team.
After the season ended, the Jazz traded Whaley as filler in the Kris Humphries/Rafael Araujo swap, and the Raptors waived him two weeks later, just before draft night. Whaley has never sniffed the NBA again. He played on the Jazz’s summer league team at the Rocky Mountain Revue in 2006 – even after they had traded him away a mere month before – and then split the 2006-07 season between the Dominican Republic, the ABA and Iran, but no NBA. In 2007/08 Whaley went to the D-League, but in 21 games with the Los Angeles D-Fenders he averaged only 4.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.8 fouls in 12.9 minutes per game. This was the last professional basketball gig of his career; as outlined at the top of the post, it appears he found a new source of income elsewhere.
Whaley’s criminal history also includes two felony counts of aggravated battery after partaking in some kind of brawl in 2003, to which he was sentenced to a year’s probation. And that history is perhaps highlighted – if that’s the right word – by a rape trial in 2001 involving a 13-year-old girl. Whaley was eventually acquitted in that case after a mistrial was declared, but that incident is what first crippled his stock and necessitated the two years at community college.
You’re getting the idea by now. Whaley has spent his adult stumbling from incidental. In a mini Twitter homage, we may now have to call him Failwhale.
Speaking of Twitter, Robert Whaley appears to have an account there, and he didn’t even use an alias to register it. On it is what appears to the harrowing story of his son being knocked down and killed by a car this summer, as well as some messages to current Jazz players. There is no reason to doubt that it is, or was, him.
Whaley has not used the account for a while, and he’s probably not going to do so soon either. Nevertheless, its existence asks an obvious question; if I can find Robert Whaley from Europe just by searching Twitter, why couldn’t Michigan State police?