ESPN Films Benji: Cautionary Tale Will Help Inspire Awareness

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor IOctober 23, 2012

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune

Ben Wilson may no longer be alive, but his impact on the world will forever live on, and ESPN's 30 for 30 film "Benji" will only serve as yet another stepping stone in that process.

If you don't known Wilson's story, the short version is this: Benji, as he was known to his close friends, was a basketball prodigy. He was the first Chicago high school basketball player to be ranked No. 1 in the nation and his future was bright. But everything came to a crashing halt when he was tragically shot to his death during his senior year in high school. 

It was a death that instantly affected hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions. 

When Codie Simmons' powerful film about this painful story debuts on ESPN on Tuesday night, it's going to be about so much more than basketball.

From ESPN's Jon Greenberg:

"Our whole thing was we wanted to make thugs cry," said Simmons, who co-directed the movie with his partner, Chike Ozah. "You know what I'm saying?

"They say these kids today are immune to death, but that was a greater death. It was something really powerful for Ben Wilson to die."

Thugs, basketball players, teenagers and suburban mothers who have never heard of Wilson, the archetypal star who died too young, all will cry during the 78-minute movie "Benji."

With "Benji," you aren't going to see a film just about a basketball star who had the potential to be one of the best of his generation. You are going to see a film about the dangers young athletes—no matter who they are—face.

You are going to see that no one—no matter how talented he or she is—is safe. You are going to see an incredibly sad film that will likely make you cry, but more importantly, make you and millions of others aware of how life can change in an instant. 

In what figures to be one of the most powerful 30 for 30 films to date, the goal of "Benji" is likely to convince anyone wandering down a negative path to think twice and gain some perspective. Hopefully, it will succeed in that aspect. 

No matter the goals or intentions, however, this film transcends basketball and serves as a must-watch for everyone.