Tuesday, August 21, 2007

RIP Eddie Griffin

Eddie Griffin was the rare kind of talent played the game with such an ease that he'd almost surprise you when he pulled down that big rebound, sent away that block, or knocked down that three-pointer. He did everything with a kind of nonchalance that made you think that he might have been half asleep on the court, and I think everyone was hoping that one day he'd wake up and show the world that he could play.

When he was released by the Rockets in 2003 for missing practices, I thought we had made a terrible mistake. He was then what everyone wished Tyson Chandler would become, a super athletic big man who controlled the boards and defended the paint, with a jumpshot to boot. The only problem was that he was only that player when he wanted to be, when his mind wasn't occupied with other things.

Griffin checked into a rehabilitation center for a year, causing him to miss the entire 2003-2004 season. When he got out, I thought he had finally gotten his act together, and we didn't need to hear any more stories about alcoholism, or drug use, or domestic violence. I always held out hope that the Rockets would pick him back up, as he might have been Yao Ming's best complement we've seen, doing everything that Chuck Hayes well and better. Instead, he went to the Timberwolves with a one-year contract, which after a decent season, was extended for another three years.

Griffin, as always, would show flashes of brilliance. However, eventually they became few and far between as he slowly faded away from the public eye. The troubles that plagued his entire career never left Griffin, and the consummation of several incidents led the Timberwolves to release him from the team last year.

Recent word comes out that EG was involved in a crash last week in Houston when he drove his SUV through a railroad barrier and was hit by an oncoming train. We're only getting word of this now because the crash caused his SUV to go up in flames, leaving his body badly burned. Authorities were only able to identify the body through dental records. I don't know if it's almost ironic or not that this is how his life ended: in a train wreck.

Rest in peace, Eddie Griffin. possibly the greatest basketball player that never was.