With less than a year remaining on his two-year ban from the NBA, O.J. Mayo says he hopes to make it back to the league and ideally as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks.
"I want to go back to what I left [in Milwaukee]," Mayo told The Crossover. "I was real close with [coach] Jason Kidd. ... I had great relationships with Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and Khris Middleton. I was comfortable there. I felt like I let them down, cheated them for two years. They paid me $8 million to be, in my eyes, a subpar player. They invested millions of dollars for me to be on top of my s---, and when you're not on top of your s---, it shows. I'll be 30 next summer. If they just give me the chance, I can make it up. I owe them."
Mayo was banned from the NBA for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He told The Crossover the drug that triggered the discipline was not a hard drug but said he smoked marijuana and abused a prescription pain medication.
In his third and final season with the Bucks, Mayo averaged 7.8 points (a career low), as well as 2.9 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game. Milwaukee renounced Mayo's rights after his suspension.
Though Mayo, who was last listed at 210 pounds, swelled to 242 pounds, the 6-foot-5 guard has lost more than 25 pounds this summer in an effort to get back into shape and eventually get his career back on track when he's eligible for reinstatement on July 1. Should he gain re-entry into the league, Mayo would be an unrestricted free agent and free to sign with any team.
"Taking the game away is probably the closest thing to jail that I'll get to," Mayo said. "Since I was like 6 or 7, I've always had a basketball season. That was the lowest point in my entire life: the shell shock of not being in the NBA. All my peers are playing and I'm not because of boneheaded mistakes. Take the ball away, what is there to do?"
Mayo, 29, spent last year travelling the world with stops in Dubai, the Maldives, Uganda, South Africa and Kenya but says he's interested in playing abroad this year, though he hasn't received any offers yet.
"When you mess up, teams wonder whether they want to put their hands on you," Mayo said. "I respect that. They can only go by a rap sheet or a résumé. If I get somewhere, I think I can change the perception."