Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Eddie Griffin Tragedy

I have a habit of quickly glancing over the many news headlines on the right side of ESPN’s home page. Today, one of those headlines read “Ex-Wolves player Griffin killed in crash”. I’ll admit that if it weren’t for KG, I would struggle to name even a single player on Minnesota’s roster from last season, but in a strange way I suspected that this was Eddie Griffin.

I first heard about Eddie Griffin 8 years ago on a local New Jersey sports website when he was a highly touted recruit that had signed to play with Seton Hall. Back then, I didn’t have the luxury of looking up his highlight reel video online so I couldn’t judge for myself if his hype was deserved. I figured that if he really was that good, we’d hear all of Jersey talk about him soon enough. Griffin didn’t disappoint; as a freshman, he averaged 17.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 4.4 blocks. However, his stat line didn’t tell the entire story. His erratic behavior and turbulent relationship with teammates at Seton Hall led him to leave early for the NBA Draft.

I didn’t hear much about him in the following 2 years outside of random stories of his off-court altercations that didn’t surprise me too much. His name came up again in 2004 when the Nets gambled by signing him to a deal. I remember talking to a few fellow-Nets fans about how this would either be a great steal or a terrible miscalculation. It was the latter extreme that played out as Griffin’s alcohol problems escalated to the point that he entered rehab to miss the entire 2003-2004 season.

Griffin went back to obscurity until now. Sadly, it’s a fatal accident that brings his name back in the news. Former Wolves coach Dwayne Casey put it well: “Basketball was never an issue with him. He needed more life lessons, and unfortunately he was never able to reach his potential.” His tragedy reflects a common and frequent theme in sports: poor decisions can overshadow the greatest of talents and destroy a career…or even a life.

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