Lorenzen Wright: 1975-2010
In the heat of a moment, we often tend to lose that dash of perspective that keeps us grounded and real.
Did Joe Johnson deserve a $120 million contract?
Did LeBron James remove himself from the Jordan-Johnson greatness debate?
Sometimes, it's possible instead to take a step back and simply reflect for what it's worth.
The 1996-1997 Los Angeles Clippers roster added another horrific and tragic entry to its list. In May 2000, Malik Sealy was killed by a drunk driver while returning from Kevin Garnett's birthday party. In 2008, Kevin Duckworth died of a heart attack at the age of 44. Two months later, Rodney Rogers was paralyzed from the shoulder down in a dirt bike accident.
And now, Lorenzen Wright.
As Jon Wertheim recollects in his account of Wright and his "posse," for a talented kid raised near Oxford, Mississippi, Wright's touching story is perhaps best summed up by his relationship with his high school point guard, Rewis "Raw Dawg" Williams.
As stars on a Memphis high school team, the two drove around the neighborhood in Wright's broken-down car and would stop by Taco Bell if they had a few extra bucks. One night, as it happened, over a ten-pack of tacos, Wright and Williams made a deal that if one of them "blew up," the other would take care of him.
It's the kind of silly cliche pact that happens all the time between teenagers. Only, Wright didn't forget. Williams stopped growing at 5'9," went to tiny Tougaloo College, and eventually dropped out without playing ball. Wright became a star at Memphis State and was selected as a lottery pick by the Clippers.
According to Wright, it wasn't a debt or a bet or anything of that sort. He explained, "I wanted him to share in some of my success. Why wouldn't you want your friends with you in the good times?"
When in grade school, a gunman seeking revenge for being kicked out of the Memphis Recreational Center entered the gym where Wright's father worked and opened fire, paralyzing him. Wright, Williams, and the rest of the "group" took complete charge, whether it was wheeling him courtside or to a doctor's appointment.
One other relative narrates the story of going through a hard time with Wright, who wanted to help him out. Another longtime friend wanted to major in business but dropped out when the college bills piled up. Lorenzen Wright wanted to help him, too.
The list went on.
HBO could have replicated their hit series, albeit this time with a real Entourage—that of Raw Dawg, "A-One," "E-Man," and the other two security staffers who made about $2,000 a day, drove a Ford Expedition around together, and drank, ate, and sometimes gambled together with Wright always picking up the tab.
For the record, Lorenzen Wright played 14 seasons in the NBA with the Clippers, Hawks, Grizzlies, Kings, and Cavaliers. As a low-post threat, he averaged 8.0 points and 6.4 rebounds while adding toughness and a defensive mentality to his teams.
But a bit further from all that, perhaps one free-throw line behind or ahead, lies the other story of Lorenzen Wright—the "good-guy-persona" basketball star who never forgot family, never forgot friends and, more touchingly, never forgot those who weren't as fortunate as himself.
Rest in Peace.
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