Yesterday, I and many other viewers were really touched by the story directors Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah presented on ESPN's 30 for 30. The story was about Benjamin Wilson, a Chicago basketball legend, gunned down in a senseless act of violence near his high school. Benji's story is a sad, yet inspiring one. The young man made major strides in his short hoops career, leading his team to an Illinois State Championship and being named the #1 player in the country, just months before his untimely passing. Benji was special to his friends, and even encouraged close friend and former NBA player Nick Anderson to transfer to Simeon High School-- so they could play together as Seniors. Another State Championship was sure to follow before the buddies left for college. Nick went on to play for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Benji didn't get to start his Senior basketball season.
The unfortunate circumstances of Benji's death included teens being teens and putting manners to the side, a troubled teen carrying a gun he shouldn't have, and a hospital with limited resources to save a young star with chances to live upon his arrival. The misguided young man who shot him missed chances in life, too. We all feel Benji was robbed of his life, and we were robbed of witnessing his further greatness. But, we are left with so much more. We have his legacy. We have the lessons we hope young teenagers will keep in mind today when contemplating gang membership over more positive and productive options. We have something to reach for, when a young high school freshman sets foot in the gym for the first time. We have the knowledge to do better, because we know better.
Hopefully you all will watch Benji's story and share it with others. Pass the legend around, and know there are Benji's everywhere who don't have to have their story end the way or as soon as his did.
For the upcoming viewing schedule, click here.