The Arrests of Olden Polynice

I must confess that a not-that-secret, not-that-guilty pleasure of mine is obsessing over crimes committed by professional athletes. It’s hard exactly to pinpoint why; perhaps because it shows that they’re imperfect, perhaps because I like to laugh at people who make worse decisions than me, who knows? However, this obsession led me to discover an absolutely incredible website called nbacrimelibrary.com. It is perfect. It is a catalogue of every NBA arrest on record, going all the way back to the fifties.

One great thing the site offers users is the ability to discover things about players’ pasts that they never knew before, or the pasts of players they had never heard of before. And that’s where Olden Polynice comes in. For the record, I have no recollection of ever watching Olden Polynice play a minute of basketball, and the name meant absolutely nothing to me prior to learning about his transgressions. However, I can tell you the following from his Wikipedia page: he was a center from Haiti who played in the NBA from 1987 to 2003. But what I can tell you from NBA Crime Library is much more interesting.

 

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Polynice was arrested five times during his NBA playing career. Of course, that’s easier to do if you have a 16 year career like Polynice and not a nine game stint like, I don’t know, Casper Ware. But yes, plenty of players with long careers never get arrested at all. Fair. But many do get arrested, even well-respected basketball minds like Jason Kidd get arrested three times in three different decades. I digress. Polynice was arrested five times in his career, but we’ll only be focusing on the last three. The first two were very normal NBA arrests–two assaults in the mid-nineties. Yet, his last three all jump off the page.

We’ll start with the last one, which is somehow the most normal of the Big Three. On July 23rd, 2001, Polynice was arrested in Salt Lake City for assault and disturbing the peace, just days after not being resigned by the Utah Jazz. Reportedly, Polynice was playing golf with some friends and went back to a previous hole to retrieve his lost scorecard, however, he was accidentally hit on the arm by a fellow golfer’s chip shot, and Olden did not take kindly to this. Mind you, Olden was not exactly a youngin at this point; in fact, he was old enough to run for all political offices. Yet, that didn’t stop him from allegedly punching and spitting on the guy who accidentally hit him.

This is just an incredibly uncouth gesture and would not be worth mentioning if not for his other, yet to be mentioned arrests. Yet, as it stands, it is a nice bookend to his saga. It will become abundantly clear that Olden Polynice is, in fact, the type of guy who is willing to throw hands over an errant golf shot.

How do I know this? It started in October of 2000, when Olden Polynice was arrested for impersonating a police officer. Yes. Impersonating a police officer. Apparently, Polynice was upset at a fellow motorist who cut him off in traffic and decided to follow him home. Once there, Polynice flashed an honorary badge given to him by the Los Angeles Police Department years before, claiming to be associated with the police. Obviously, the couple he was menacing took down his license plate and he was arrested.

preview0304_polyniceAnd I really wonder how he thought he was gonna get away with that. Obviously, it’s bizarre that the guy didn’t immediately recognize him, as I doubt there’s a single black person over 6-foot-10 living in Salt Lake City that doesn’t play for the Jazz, but that aside, his actions make it very clear he is not a police officer. How often do police officers follow traffic violators home, skip tickets or warnings, and simply threaten people?

Also, what does Olden get out of this? Is he concerned that at some point, this guy would cut him off again in traffic, and he’s planning ahead against that? Like, is it worth following a person home and threatening them just to scold them? Did he chalk that up for his good deed for the day? “You did good, Olden. You taught those guys a lesson.” Like I mentioned earlier, somehow, despite being an NBA player raking in upwards of one million dollars every year, Polynice managed to live seemingly every minute almost nothing to lose.

Being that I’m a halfway-decent writer, I obviously saved the best Polynice arrest for last. Now, it’s understandable for you to be wondering what could possibly be stranger, funnier, more exciting than a grown-ass NBA player getting pinched for impersonating a police officer. You know what is all of those things? A grown-ass NBA player getting pinched for impersonating a police officer again.

Yes, two of Olden Polynice’s five career arrests were for impersonating a police officer to people who he got into traffic disputes with. The second arrest, unfortunately, was actually for an incident that happened before the first arrest (which sucks because it would be a lot funnier if he got arrested for doing it and decided it was still worth it to do again), but that just means that he was serial offender at this.

In this incident, which happened in September of 2000, Polynice reportedly told a driver that flipped him off for speeding that he was “with the California Sheriff’s office,” and could “have him arrested.” This obviously means that not only did Polynice impersonate a cop, he did an even worse impersonation than the time before. This altercation was in Utah, mind you, and somehow, Polynice believes that he has the power to get people arrested two states over from where he apparently works.

And once again, why is Polynice doing this? Because when I imagine someone getting arrested for using an honorary badge as a real one, it’s to get extra benefits or classified information, not to talk down to bad drivers. Also, there is no way in hell that that badge looked real. Obviously the LAPD isn’t that smart, but someone had to make sure the honorary badges look honorary.

There’s no denying that Polynice’s pair of police impersonating arrests are peculiar in their own right, and would be bizarre if the man who committed them was a middle-aged accountant from Poughkeepsie. However, the fact that Polynice was a minor celebrity, no matter how minor, just makes it fascinating to me. It’s dumbfounding that someone with the support system that the National Basketball Association has to offer would do something so odd.

I suppose that’s why I’m obsessed with arrests in sports. Because dumb actions that are usually committed by dumb people are even dumber when they have all the safeguards in place to stop them from being dumb. Like, I expect a run-of-the-mill dumb person to wrap marijuana in aluminum foil and try to go through a airport metal detector, but not professional NBA player Damon Stoudamire, who should undoubtedly have a friend who could hold his weed or at least tell him that you can’t bring aluminum foil through a metal detector.

I have no earthly idea what makes Olden Polynice or any athlete for that matter do something obscenely stupid, whether it is light enough fare for me to laugh at or not. What I do know is that very few things in recent memory have made me laugh as hard as the idea of a professional basketball player using an honorary badge to intimidate fellow drivers. It has the perfect blend of stupidity, randomness, and entitlement that makes athlete and celebrity arrests great. All we needed was for Polynice to tell the cops, “Don’t you know who I am?”

The Arrests of Olden Polynice

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