The life of an NBA player is not all that glamorous, as many things can get in the way of a successful NBA career. Whether it is injuries that are sustained outside of the sport, or untimely deaths of players or family members, there are a lot of documented tragedies that have happened to those playing in the NBA.
Here we will be taking a look at some of the biggest tragedies that happened off the court of an actual NBA game. Often times we see that off the field instances can affect players on the court, and many times some of the most heartbreaking tragedies that have occurred can result in the loss of life. Below is a list of some of the biggest off the court tragedies that have happened to NBA players or coaches.
15. Derek Fisher
Derek Fisher’s life was flipped upside down in 2006, and his story is a good reminder that there are things more important than sports. During the second round of the playoffs it was revealed to Fisher that his daughter had a rare form of cancer affecting one of her eyes. He stayed with his family through surgery, and almost risked himself missing a playoff game. Fisher ended up sealing the victory in overtime with a dagger during a game where he showed up late into the second half, but then had to forfeit the remainder of his contract (3-years, $20 million) in order to find better medical facilitates. There was no guarantee if he would play in the NBA again, and took a huge risk finically in order to deal with his daughters very rare illness.
14. Eddie Griffin
Eddie Griffin did not get to retire from the NBA on his terms in the summer of 2007. After being cut by the Minnesota Timberwolves during March of 2007, Griffin was a part of a fatal car accident over the summer. The details of the accident are the most tragic part, as Griffin ignored a railroad warning and was struck by a train. His SUV caught on fire, burning so badly that Griffin was identified from dental records. Medical examiners found that his blood-alcohol level was three times the legal driving limit. Griffin had documented problems with alcohol, checking into a rehab facility during his second year in the league.
13. Jay Williams
When the Bulls drafted Jay Williams in 2002, my seven year old self thought he was going to be a huge star and lead the Chicago to the finals. Many other people thought he was going to be a hit in the NBA as well, but unfortunately some rash decisions cost Williams his playing career. Without wearing a helmet, or being licensed to drive a motorcycle, Williams crashed into streetlight. The injuries were severe, fracturing his pelvis, dislocated ligaments in his ACL, as well as one of his main nerve in his leg being damaged. Psychical therapy was needed in order for him to regain use of his leg, and he was never able to make an NBA roster again afterwards. In his rookie contract it was stated that Williams could not ride a motorcycle, and lost all his potential earnings from his rookie deal as well.
12. Reggie Lewis
Reggie Lewis died playing the game he loved, which may be the worst thing about him passing. In April 1993, Lewis collapse with heart troubles during a Boston Celtics playoff game, and was warned by doctors that continuing to play could cause more severe heart problems. Lewis, not being able to see life without basketball, sought out a second opinion, where he was told he did not have any severe problems at all. With that in mind, Lewis resumed light workouts and participated in light practices to get ready for the 1994 season. During the summer, Lewis went into full cardiac arrest while shooting around, and collapsed in a Celtics training facility.
11. Roy Tarpley
Roy Tarpley was becoming a great player for the early ’90s Dallas Mavericks teams. During his fifth season, he was finally putting it all together, averaging 20.4 points per game along with 11 rebounds. Who knows what he was going to do in his prime. No one was given the opportunity to find out though, as Tarpley would violate the league’s substance abuse policy for a third time, getting himself banned from the NBA in the process. Tarpley had an addiction problem, and it was something that he could not get help with or fixed. Basketball was trying to rid the league of players like this instead of getting help in order to clean up the leagues image. Tarpley was given one more chance in 1994, playing 55 games before he was banned again.
10. Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson was still at his peak, still a championship contender, but had to cut his career short after the announcement that he was HIV positive in 1991. This was a moment that transcended sports, as their were very few celebrities knowingly having HIV and announcing it. Magic Johnson was announcing an illness that had very little hope to being cured or contained, and many people at the time thought he was announcing that he was going to be dying soon due to the disease. In order to focus on his life and not be a risk to any other NBA players, Johnson had to cut his career short and retire from the game he loved. Since then, Magic has been a key face for HIV researcher as well as a business mogul, proving many people that thought in 1991 that he would lose the battle to HIV in a matter of years.
9. Lamar Odom
Lamar Odom is yet another player on this list that had his tragedy somewhat self inflicted due to drugs and alcohol. He was found unconscious in a Nevada brothel after a wild weekend where he had to be hospitalized due to the large amount of drugs found in his system. When he arrived at the hospital, he had to have his breathing assisted by machines and was in a coma after overdosing.
8. Ryan Anderson
Four years ago reality star Gia Allemand decided to end her life, sending boyfriend Ryan Anderson in a spiral. The death came by surprise to many people, as most suicides tend to do. The couple were in the middle of talking about a long future together, shopping for various rings and houses and seemed like the couple was about to take the next step. The tragedy sent Anderson into a downward spiral, and over a year later, he spoke on the subject to Sports Illustrated. The article goes on to explain certain details of the death that would send anyone into an emotional mess. To make matters worse, Anderson blamed himself for the events that happened.
7. Lorenzen Wright
The most tragic thing about the death of Lorenzen Wright is that no one knows who is to blame for it. In 2010 Wright made a 911 call where you can hear him yelling right before gun shots go off, the 911 dispatcher did not tell anyone about this call for eight days, which drastically hindered a police investigation. Two days later Wright was found dead, but due to the fact that the police got their ten days after the shooting, it was very difficult to find any traces of a killer. Memphis police were stumped, and Wright’s murderer may never have justice. In May 2017, it was announced that his twin sons were moving to California to play basketball, in an article that also outlines just how hard it has been for the two over the past seven years.
6. Drazen Petrovic
The death of Drazen Petrovic came as a shock to all NBA fans in 1993. As one of the leading ambassador for European players making the transition to the NBA, Drazen was a huge part of the league during his time. His death came suddenly while playing for the Croatian national team, at the hands of a car accident in which he was the passenger. This was after Petrovic had his best season in the NBA, and finally making a name for himself. During the ESPN 30 for 30 Film “Once Brothers” it is documented that Petrovic had a distant relationship with long time friend Vlade Divac, and the two never settled their differences before the untimely death.
5. Jrue Holiday
For Lauren and Jrue Holiday, bringing a child into this world was the scariest moment of their lives. This wasn’t just because it is a major step, caring for another human, but rather the fact that Lauren was coping with a brain tumor while being pregnant with their first child. The scare and situation forced Holiday to put his NBA career on hold until after Lauren had surgery, the baby was delivered, and once it was safe for him to return. After a successful birth in late September the two were finally able to relax. When the news initially broke out that Holiday, former women’s national soccer team player, had a tumor while being pregnant, many people wondered how likely it was everything would turn out okay. Thankfully, it did.
4. Chris Washburn
Chris Washburn was a top three pick that quickly found himself out of the league for two big reasons. One, was the tendinitis in his knee, which means he had no real shot at a long career at the start. The second major problem was something that plauged many players at the time, which was cocaine use. After Washburn found himself hospitalized due to knee problems, he was put onto anti inflammatory medicine, which couple with his drug use caused a massive kidney infection. In the middle of the season, Washburn checked into a rehab clinic. After two more incidents with drug use, the league was forced to give him the permanent ban, leaving Washburn out of the league. Since, it looks like he has kicked his drug habit, and focused on his two sons who both played college ball.
3. Isaiah Thomas
I personally do not know how Isaiah Thomas was able to play during the 2017 first round series against the Chicago Bulls. The playoffs started just the day after his sister died in a car accident. Thomas made a decision to play during Game 1, which is remarkable. He said that quitting and calling it a season despite what happened would be taking the easy way out. In the situation that Thomas was facing, there was no clear easy way out though. His sister’s funeral was the evening prior to the start of the second round series against the Wizards, and Thomas had less than a 24 hour turn around from speaking at the funeral in Washington, to being back in time to suit up in Boston. Thomas was silent over the matter for a short period, but shared something via the Boston Celtics twitter account.
2. Monty Williams
Last year Monty Williams had to deal with the hardest thing of his life, losing his wife Ingrid in a terrible car accident. Ingrid was driving three of the five Williams children while someone driving a Sedan collided with the family head on. The person driving the car that hit the family was found out to have large amounts of methamphetamine in their system. The family was rushed to the hospital after the incident, with all three children involved not sustaining any major injuries. That couldn’t be the same for Ingrid, even though it looked like she would be okay, she passed away later the next day. Williams has been on the record documenting how hard it has been losing the person that was beside him for 26 years.
1. Len Bias
The man everyone expected to see on this list at some point. For those who don’t know, Len Bias was the next big thing in the NBA. He dominated the college game and showed more than just flashes of excellence that would translate to the next level. A stacked Boston Celtics team was drooling at the site of adding Bias into the rotation, to help carry some of the load as their superstars aged. Bias would have been the next star up in Boston, but a cocaine overdose just days after the NBA Draft killed the prospect. The news rocked the entire basketball world as the possible future star was announced dead.
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