The climbing murder rate aside, the Philadelphia sports family suffered two significant loses.
First, Philly high school star Eddie Griffin, formerly of the Houston Rockets, New Jersey Nets, and Minnesota Timberwolves, lost his life when his SUV collided with a train near his home in Houston.
Then, this past weekend, the body of the father of former St. Joseph’s star and current Orlando Magic point guard Jameer Nelson was pulled from the Delaware River, after the elder Nelson fell into the water while working on a tugboat along the docks.
Griffin was the nation’s top high school player in 2000. He played one season at Seton Hall before being drafted seventh overall by the Nets and then traded to the Rockets in the 2001 NBA Draft.
Griffin’s troubles were well documented. Those close to him point to the death of his half-brother Marvin Powell in 2001 as a turning point. Powell was a father figure to Griffin, and seemed to be a stabilizing force in his life. In the NBA, Griffin struggled with alcoholism and had several run-ins with the law—from drunk driving to domestic disputes.
At the time of his death, Griffin was working with John Lucas, himself a recovering addict, and trying to get his career and life back on the right path.
Sadly, that life ended on a road in Houston—as he was trying to cross the tracks.
Suicide has not been ruled out, but I don't suspect it. In any event, Griffin's death leaves his three-year-old daughter Amaree without a father.
Jameer Nelson is the most decorated player in the history of college basketball. Don’t believe me? Look it up.
In the 2003-2004 NCAA season, Nelson's St. Joe’s Hawks went undefeated in the regular season, were ranked No. 1 for most of the year, and advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAAs.
Needless to say, he did Philadelphia and his hometown of Chester, PA, proud.
Imagine how his father Pete must have felt.
Pete was seen on the local news in the hours leading up to the NBA draft carrying a suit that Jameer bought for him. Not an 80,000-dollar car, not a million-dollar home...a suit.
He'd probably tell you it was the best gift Jameer could have given him, if you could ask him today.
Instead, Jameer will be saying a last goodbye to his father within the week.
Pete Nelson drowned after falling off the docks while working on a tugboat in Chester last week. What really touched me was the fact that despite winning the proverbial “Lottery," Nelson chose to still work the same nine-to-five job he'd had for years
The same nine-to-five that put food on the table, and got Jameer his first Jordans. More importantly, the same nine-to-five that showed Jameer the value of hard work, and the rewards it can bring.
I’m glad Pete Nelson had the opportunity to share in his son’s rewards, which were in turn his rewards as a parent.
Michael Vick’s estranged father recently came forth to claim that his son was involved in dogfighting long before the NFL—after Michael wouldn’t pay him a lump sum of a million dollars. Michael did pay for an apartment and gave his father a couple hundred dollars a month.
Pete Nelson could’ve stopped working, and Jameer probably urged him to. But as a man and a father, who wants to be dependent on his children?
Sure, you’ll take the house and the gifts, but a lot of old school parents would rather let their children have their own moments in the sun.
If my son ever becomes as great as the greatest athlete who ever lived, I may opt for a simple suit.
If it was good enough for Pete Nelson, it’s good enough for me.