NBA’s Most Tragic Deaths

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A more recent passing on this list is that of Anhtony Mason, most famous for playing on the Knicks with Charles Oakley and Patrick Ewing in 1991-1996. He suffered a massive heart attack in February 2015 and succumbed to the condition on February 28th 2015, with the phrases “RIP Anthony Mason” and “RIP Mase” trending on Twitter. Mason was 48.

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Reggie Lewis had a superb season in 1992-93, averaging 20.8 PPG. He was set to inherit the Celtics after Larry Bird’s retirement, but unfortunately it was not meant to be. The 27-year old’s career and life were cut short by a structural heart defect in the summer following that season. The Celtics retired his number 35 jersey the following season.

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University of Maryland star Len Bias is widely considered to be the best player to never play professionally. He was drafted second by the Boston Celtics in 1986, but died two days later from cardiac arrhythmia caused by a cocaine overdose. He was only 22 years old.

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With his creative ball-handling, flashy passes and ability to score from anywhere, “Pistol” Pete Maravich was cited by the James Naismith Hall of Fame to be “Perhaps the greatest offensive talent in history”. Forced out of the league in 1980 by injuries, Maravich died doing what loved – his last words were “I feel great”, less than a minute before his death from a heart failure on January 5 1988 during a pick-up game at church gym in Pasadea, California. His merchandise is some of the most valuable in existence – a game-worn LSU jersey sold for $94,300 at a Grey Flannel auction in 2001, while a signed ball from his 1977 68-point game sold for $131,450 at a Heritage auction.

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The impact that Drazen Petrovic had on the NBA can still be felt today, as the Croatian played a key role in paving the way for European players to make the jump to the NBA. He was a star in Europe and internationally before joining the NBA in 1989, and he would set the league alight and many consider him to be one of the all-time great shooters. Petrovic tragically died in a car crash in the summer of 1993 at 28 years old, just after his best season in the NBA. The accident occurred in Germany after meeting up with his national team, and the Nets would retire his jersey later that year.

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The death of Ricky Berry remains somewhat of a mystery. After a successful rookie season with the Kings, Berry showed great potential and was expected to have a bright future in the league, but in the 1989 offseason just weeks before his 25th birthday, Berry was found dead in his home from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had left a suicide note and was arguing with his wife, but there is still plenty of mystery surrounding his tragic passing. He had a bright future ahead of him, he was earning a lot of money, had a nice house and car, a beautiful wife and was clear of drugs and alcohol.

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Malik Sealy was selected by the Pacers with the 14th pick in the 1992 draft. He would play for the Pacers, Clippers and Pistons before joining the Timberwolves in 1999. On May 20th, 2000, Sealy was driving home from best-friend and teammate Kevin Garnett’s 24th birthday party, when a drunk driver on the wrong side of the road crashed into Sealy in his SUV. The driver suffered head and chest injuries, and would be given a four-year prison term. The Timberwolves retired Sealy’s no.2, and Garnett got a tattoo of Sealy’s name on his right arm and changed his number to Sealy’s when he joined the Nets in 2013.

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The shocking and tragic story of Eddie Griffin’s death stunned the entire NBA and sporting world. The standout performer at college was touted to be one of the next great players in the NBA, but he was clearly a troubled soul and this would plague his NBA career. He started his career brightly in Houston, but he struggled with alcoholism which caused him to miss the entire 2003-04 season as he entered rehab. He was picked up by the Timberwolves in 2004 and began to show promise, but in 2006 he crashed his car whilst intoxicated and would be later released by the Timberwolves. In 2007, Griffin died after ignoring a railroad warning and driving through a barrier onto the tracks where his car was then hit by a moving train. Griffin had to be identified through dental records and he had more than three times the legal alcohol amount in his system. During his career several people tried to help Griffin, but he was clearly battling demons and was just 25 years old when he passed.

Written by Nick Endress

Nick Endress

Nick the Quick Endress is an avid fan of basketball and hip hop, and a contributing writer with WJS since 2013. Nick has interviewed rappers, ballers, rapper ballers, and baller rappers on the site and continues to preach that the NBA should have a team in Europe. Maybe because Nick currently lives outside London where to them Football is actually played with your feet, can you believe this fatuousness?