Unfortunately, he would wake up soon afterward, realizing he was back to reality, living on the streets in Orlando, sleeping with one eye open, in places that often embarrassed him.
There was that dank, dusty storage shed that a friend rented for $39 a month and gave him the extra key so he could at least get out of the rain at night. Nobody bothered him there but the cockroaches.
There was the homeless shelter, which wasn't always available because it was first-come, first-served and it usually filled up fast with grown men wheezing or crying or snoring and people always asking questions.
Then there was the clean and comfortable local hospital, where he eventually ended up because the infection from the multiple spider bites on his toe had grown so out of control and spiked his fever that doctors wanted to amputate his grotesque-looking foot before it cost him the entire leg.
That's where he woke up one day to find his estranged wife crying beside his hospital bed, begging him to come home again, even if it meant violating the court order that prevented him from being within 500 feet of her.
Living on the street almost killed him.
Praying for forgiveness literally saved him.
"I feel lucky to still be alive,'' Vaughn said last week when we met at the downtown public library, heaven for an avid reader and a day-time haven for anyone living on the streets. It's where he felt comfortable enough to sit and talk about his life after basketball, about his downward spiral, about hitting bottom nine months ago in that hospital room, and his rebirth through the last several months."I went from the pinnacle of having it all, to the pits of having absolutely nothing, and seeing no light at the end of the tunnel.''
-- David Vaughn
"I went from the pinnacle of having it all, to the pits of having absolutely nothing, and seeing no light at the end of the tunnel,'' he said. "I was a mess, but I didn't want to end up in hell. And now I'm on my way back.''
Vaughn, 36, wasn't much different in 2008 than the thousands of homeless people living in cities across America, except he had fallen out of the penthouse, a former first-round draft pick of the Orlando Magic in 1995 who washed out of the league after four years, and with no idea where to turn next.
Vaughn came from the University of Memphis, a big, strong power forward who shined in college basketball, but struggled to carve his niche in the NBA, never living up to expectations. He played in Europe for a couple years afterward, bounced through a few teams, even returned home to try the Harlem Globetrotters for a short period.
But he lost his passion for the game, then lost everything else, including his wife, two children and his self esteem.
His original three-year guaranteed contract with the Magic didn't come with any guarantees of a successful life. The contract didn't come with a course in life management skills, and he had none when his basketball career finished. He had no degree after three years in college, and no real desire to get one.
"We're fortunate that he's still with us, after all he has been through the last few years,'' said Kyle Rote, Jr. his former agent who has kept in and out of contact with him and his wife. "A lot of guys would be dead. I've always said `it's a lot harder to get out of big-time professional sports than it is to get into it.' You get sucked into that lifestyle, and there's no easy way out.''
Despite all the low moments -- the domestic violence arrest and two jail stays, the failed drug tests, the broken up family, the broken down body, the depression that followed, and the year on the streets -- Vaughn's story does not have a sad ending.
It's a comeback story with a happy new start. It's a story about a good family man now whose life has come back together as he looks for a new job, looking forward to being there for his two kids and his wife and for himself, a rock for them to lean on instead of a dope for failing them.
There is no bitterness in his voice, only the joy that he has found in the last nine months and the hope for a bright and simple future. He speaks confidently about his plans and he smiles a lot.
"I have no regrets, except for what I put my family through,'' he said. "I'm a lot smarter now. I made it to the NBA, which was a dream of mine. I just didn't know what to do when I got there. The money doesn't last forever. It comes and goes. I made a lot of bad choices. Now I just want to get a decent job, drive a truck, be a security guard, maybe coach a little. I'd be happy with that life. My wife stuck with me through the hard times -- and I'm grateful -- and we made it through the storm.''
Vaughn's NBA career included two seasons in Orlando, then another two split between Golden State, Chicago and New Jersey. Through four seasons, he played in just 118 games, averaging only 9.8 minutes a game. He then played parts of three seasons in Europe.
The money he made in basketball – the most was $600,000 in each of his first three seasons – is long gone. He bought more cars than he could ever drive, a house too big for himself when he was single, too many clothes and too much jewelry, sending too much money to relatives back in Memphis.
When his basketball career ended in 2003, he came back to Orlando looking for work. He unloaded trucks at a grocery store. He moved packages at Federal Express. He tried his own one-man moving company. He worked for three years at a furniture store driving and unloading trucks. He was good at it, too, but he was laid off when the store stopped their delivery service.
Even when he lived on the street, he often was working. He just wasn't making enough money to support both him and his family that he couldn't legally see. They had a small apartment. He had the street. His paychecks usually went to them.
"We look back now, at all the trials and tribulations we went through, and say `wow. We made it through,''' said Brandi Vaughn, his wife and mother of his two children. "It was a battle. When he was playing basketball, we had it all, but we were foolish. We separated, but I never divorced him, even when the judge said I should. We fought the good fight, and we made it through.''
Vaughn today is collecting unemployment, getting $250 per week, still looking for another job. He and the family live together in Southwest Orlando. He likes nothing better than watching his two sons playing football in the courtyard outside their apartment.
They have little money, but they never have been happier. He thinks back to the '90s when he played in the NBA, living large and acting wild like a child with too many quarters in an arcade.
"I used to come to this library a lot when I had nowhere else to go,'' he said. "If I had any advice for the young guys coming into the league today, it's prepare for a future beyond basketball. If you're not careful, everything can disappear.''