Basketball Players Who Died Young

A young basketball player passing away is just sad to hear. There is always going to be that one person who looks up to them. Fortunately, we have many basketball players alive today that continue putting a positive impact on the younger generation. 

2020, we had to bear the loss of Kobe Bryant, one of the best basketball players ever produced by the NBA. Today, we are going to look at some of the basketball players who were at the peak of their careers but died young. 

Hank Gathers

In the 1990 NBA Draft, there was a lot of talking going around the Hank Gathers would be the first overall selection. He had transferred from USC to Loyola Marymount University and was expected to lead the country in rebounding and scoring. Even though Gathers managed to average 28 points and 29 rebounds per game but the draft never included his name.

The year 1989 saw Gathers collapsing on the ground and was found to have an abnormal heartbeat. He was advised to take some medicines but soon stopped taking them stating that it made him played worse. A year later, Gathers collapsed again, leading to his death this time. He had a promising future ahead of him but his decision not to take medicines made him one of the basketball players that died young.

Bobby Phills

Bobby Phills was a shooting guard from Southern University and was a second-round pick in 1991. He had started his career in the CBA. Phills made a brief appearance for the Cavaliers before departing for Spain. He soon returned and played several seasons for both the Hornets and Cavaliers. 

Phills managed to average 11.0 points and 2.7 rebounds per game and was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team of 1996. Phills while being on the Hornets roster was 30 years old. He was driving his Porsche at around 80 miles per hour when he lost control. 

As a result, Phills collided with oncoming traffic, which turned into a three-vehicle accident. He was the only one who could not survive the accident and was pronounced dead at the scene. The investigation blamed Phills for the accident. 

This made Phills just another example of basketball players who died too young. 

Malik Sealy

Malik Sealy was a New York kid who decided to stay in the area for college and attend St. John’s. In 1992, he was made the 14th overall pick by the Pacers and would also end up playing for the Pistons, Clippers, and Timberwolves in his seven NBA seasons. 

During his career, Sealy managed to score 10.1 points per game, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game on average. In 2000, Sealy was attending the birthday party of Kevin Garnett and departed for home. Sealy was driving in the correct lane when someone in their truck, heavily drunk swerved their vehicle in the wrong lane, striking Sealy head-on 

The driver who hit Sealy had previously been arrested multiple times under the influence. He survived but Sealy could not due to his vehicle not having airbags. He was just 30 years old. 

Jason Collier

Jason Collier, a seven-footer basketball player was the best in Ohio in 1996 and had attended both Georgia Tech and Indiana. Later, Collier would be drafted 15th overall and debuted with Houston. In 20015, Collier experienced breathing problems having no previous health concerns. 

Her wife upon noticing him turn blue called the ambulance and applied CPR. Sadly, he could not reach the hospital and died on the way. An autopsy revealed that Collier had an enlarged heart, nearly 1.5 times the size of an average heart. The next season, the Hawks wore black patches to honor and remember their teammate. 

Len Bias

At the University of Maryland, the NBA scouts were drooling over Len Bias over his potential draft. At the time. Bias was being compared to Michael Jordan and Boston Celtics, the defending champions at the time drafted him in 1986 with the second overall pick. 

Despite the fact that Len Bias was amongst basketball players who died young but his death is the most infamous. Shortly after being draft, Bias returned to Maryland and partied with some of his college teammates. Upon drinking heavily and doing drugs, Bias began convulsing early in the morning in 1986. 

He was taken to the hospital where the medical team tried to resuscitate him but the drug abuse was to the point that it took his life. 

Steve McElveen

Steve McElveen was known to have splendid defensive power and skills. He played for the Dayton Flyers who were immediately impressed by his playing ability. In 2015-2016 alone, Steve managed to achieve 55 blocks while adding 6.1 points per game. 

McElveen was just 20 years old when he collapsed in his home in New Haven, Indiana. He was with his neighbor at the time, who called the paramedics. The team tried to resuscitate him but sadly he had passed away. He was known to be a gem of a person, who had his entire life ahead of him. His teammates visited his house to show their respect. 

Drazen Petrovic

Drazen Petrovic was a player nobody had an idea of what to do with him when he entered the NBA. He was a Croatian basketball player but Portland in 1986, drafted him in the third round. Three years later, Petrovic would join the Portland team and play two seasons before departing for the Nets for two more seasons. 

This is where he became a star, averaging 19.5 points and 2.9 assists per game in New Jersey. Petrovic after the 1992-1993 season was playing for the Croatian national team in Poland was considering leaving NBA at the time. In 1993, Petrovic got involved in an accident on the Autobahn. 

The basketball player was sleeping in the back of the truck when a wayward truck struck and killed both him and the driver. He was a rising star of his time and sadly passed away at the age of 28 years old. 

Final Word

Basketball is a game of the young. Most players enter the game in their 20s. This is why hearing such young talents passing away is always heartbreaking. While some gave it away for drugs, others collapsed or were caught in accidents. Regardless, one should remember them as talented individuals who even though for a brief period, blessed the courts with their skills and talent.