The Professional Athlete as Target: 'Am I Next?'

Four examples don't necessarily amount to a trend. But any professional athlete can look at the cases of Walker, Curry, Robinson and now Taylor -- not to mention separate robberies involving Lamar Odom, Phillip Buchanon, Cuttino Mobley and Plaxico Burress, and the shootings of Darrent Williams, Julius Hodge and Tank Johnson's bodyguard -- and at least ask the question: Am I next?

Six months after his horrifying incident, Walker still is trying to get over what happened to him. He put his house on the market and hasn't been back since that night. Just now starting to find closure, Walker's scars were reopened by Taylor's death.

"It definitely brought back some bad memories for myself, and you just kind of replay those things in your head," Walker told this week. "Obviously, I was very lucky not having any bodily harm, not having any physical altercation. I was lucky. Everybody doesn't get as lucky as I was."

It is particularly alarming that a number of these recent incidents took place at the athletes' homes. Curry, Walker, Robinson and Taylor all were at home, in some cases with their families, when trouble found them.

"If you're not safe at home, then where?" Walker asked.

Said Chicago Bulls forward Ben Wallace: "You always want to feel like you're safe in your home, but that doesn't seem to be the case any more. If these things keep happening like they're happening, you'd be a fool not to take necessary measures to protect your family."

That's a point each professional sports league has been making for years, be it at annual rookie symposiums or in constant updates from league and team security personnel throughout the season.

After the Curry and Walker incidents this past summer, Robert Gadson, head of security for the NBA Player's Association, sent a memo to all NBA players, urging them to review their security procedures and scrutinize everything from the height of the bushes in front of their homes to the people with whom they surround themselves to the type of home security system they have.

"Our players, their work schedule is public knowledge, the amount of money they make is public knowledge, they're easily recognizable and they're rich," said Gadson, who spent 23 years as a New York Police detective. "These people targeted [Curry and Walker] specifically. They were young and rich. People knew where they lived, and someone took advantage."

Allen Thompson Jr., a former college basketball player and the founder of Silent Knights Security, a personal protection service in northern California that protects athletes, celebrities and high-profile businessmen, says he believes most athletes don't think enough about protection. If they do think about it, they hire an oversized friend rather than a trained professional to serve as a bodyguard. Or they think a gun (or in Taylor's case, a machete that he reportedly kept next to the bed) will protect them.

"We live in a society where people are becoming more and more desperate," Thompson said. "The economy is poor, people are losing their jobs, they don't readily have the funds available that they once did … so one thing leads to another. They take a chance, throw on a ski mask, get a gun -- and most athletes today just aren't prepared for that."

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