Reaching the NBA is the ultimate goal and dream for every single young basketball player out there, and hearing your name called in the NBA Draft has to be one of the best feelings any human being can ever experiment.
Nonetheless, even if you feel like you’re on top of the world, all can end pretty suddenly, as a lot of things happen in life that we just can’t control and none of us can’t win the battle against death, not even some of the best athletes in the world.
Today, we’re going to honor some of the best players that passed away during their primes, between 25 and 28 years old and at the time that they were having the best season of their respective careers.
8. Conrad McRae (29 years old)
Conrad McRae died just before fulfilling his longtime dream of having an NBA career, as he played overseas before finally making the Orlando Magic summer league roster at age 29. An athletic freak at the center position had prior blackouts during games, and doctors encouraged him to quit basketball, but he wanted to have an NBA career more than anything, something that would eventually kill him during a team practice after a heart attack.
7. Jason Collier (28 years old)
Jason Collier was never much of a dominant center, and he was more of a role player and back up big guy throughout his NBA career. Still, he shocked the world when he was found collapsing in his house due to an enlarged heart. At the time of his death, he hadn’t been diagnosed with that condition, so it was quite surprising and tragic all of the sudden.
Through his career, he played for the Rockets and Hawks with averages of 5.6 points and 2.9 boards per game.
6. Terry Furlow (25 years old)
Terry Furlow was one of the league’s rising stars at the time of his passing, finally finding his groove and spot in the Association at Utah after being quickly dealt by the Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks.
Spending just 4 seasons in the Association, he posted career averages of 10 points, 2.7 boards and 2.4 dimes at both guard spots before dying in a car accident in Cleveland, and the police found traces of valium and cocaine in his blood during the autopsy.
5. Eddie Griffin (25 years old)
Griffin was a very productive backup big man for the Minnesota Timberwolves at the time of his passing, but even his coach Dwane Casey knew that he was a time bomb. Eddie was struggling with a lot of off-court issues, including substance abuses, something that would eventually end up killing him, as he missed a sign and wound up crashing into a moving train, causing a huge fire that would leave his body beyond recognition.
Through his career, Eddie averaged 7.2 points and 5.8 boards.
4. Bobby Phills (30 years old)
Bobby Phills was a very late Draft pick by the Milwaukee Bucks but worked his butt off night in and night out to have a very solid NBA career off the bench for his defensive hustle and craftiness, even called the toughest defender Michael Jordan had ever faced according to him. That kind of high praise came when Phills made the 95-96 All-Defensive squad, several years prior to the car accident that would take his life after driving through the opposing lane.
Through 8 seasons, he averaged 11 points, 3.1 boards and 2.7 dimes with 1.3 steals per game.
3. Malik Sealy (30 years old)
Just a couple of months after Eddie Griffin’s dead, the Minnesota Timberwolves would have to face yet another tragedy. See, after celebrating Kevin Garnett’s 24th birthday, Sealy’s car was completely destroyed after a drunk truck driver crashed into it, instantly killing him. Sealy was Garnett’s best friend and he even has his name tattooed in his arms, and the Timberwolves retired his number 2 jersey.
Reportedly, he was also Garnett’s biggest motivator and instigator, and one of the main responsible why he went on to become such a dominant player. Over a 7 season span, he averaged just over 10 points and 3 boards.
3. Reggie Lewis (27 years old)
Reggie Lewis’ death was extremely tragic, as he was just entering his prime and was called to be the next leader of the Boston Celtics during the post Larry Bird era, posting averages of 17.6 points, 4.3 boards and 2.6 dimes as a guard / forward. During a team’s practice, Lewis just collapsed and instantly died due to a heart attack.
The Celtics retired his number 35 jersey, and on a side note, he’s the only player in history with 4 blocks in a game against Michael Jordan.
1. Drazen Petrovic (28 years old)
Drazen Petrovic was one of the most dominant and skilled players in the world at the time of his passing, and he had led the New Jersey Nets as one of the most impressive players the league had ever seen. As a matter of fact, players like Jordan and Miller stated that he was pretty much unguardable.
Drazen was averaging career highs in all stats with 22.3 points and 4.5 dimes per game before suffering a car accident in Germany that would eventually take away his life. Drazen will go down in history as one of the games’ biggest what-ifs, and one of the most prolific shooters ever.