(Long Island, NY) A life cut short is always a sad story. Regardless if someone was a basketball player or fan, to die at the young age of 25 cannot be viewed as anything else but a tragedy. Eddie Griffin, the former Seton Hall product, was involved in a fatal automobile accident on August 17 in Houston at 1:30 a.m. and left this world without realizing his true potential.
Griffin, driving an SUV, apparently ignored a railroad warning and went through a barrier before striking a moving train. As a result of the fire caused by the crash, a positive identification was not possible until dental records were checked. Investigators revealed that there were no skid marks at the scene and toxicology reports were still pending.
All of that is irrelevant right now. A young man’s life was lost and the causes will not change anything.
A life that could have been different when you factor in that Griffin had as many problems off the court as talent on it. Following a standout high school career at Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia, Griffin chose to take his game to Seton Hall University and averaged 17.8 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game in his first NCAA campaign. He was named ‘Freshman of the Year’ by The Sporting News and was viewed as a potential top pick in the 2001 NBA Draft.
Following a fight with a teammate in January of 2001, Griffin left the school and declared himself eligible for the draft. He ended up being selected 7th overall by the New Jersey Nets, and fell down the draft board due to questions about his attitude. The Nets then traded his draft rights to the Houston Rockets for Brandon Amstrong, Jason Collins, and the rights to Richard Jefferson.
His first two professional seasons were productive, averaging over 8 points and almost 6 boards and 2 blocks per game. Problems with drinking started to become and issue with Griffin the following season, which culminated in the Rockets releasing the 6’10”, 240-pound big man. He had missed practice sessions and a team flight, which did not bode too well with the team.
In January, 2004, the Nets signed their former first round pick, but he missed the entire season after entering an alcohol rehabilitation center. The Minnesota Timberwolves inked Griffin to a one-year deal in 2004 and he began to show signs of being a decent role player for them. Trouble followed him to Minnesota and he spent 11 days in jail in 2004 after violating a court order. He was ultimately sentenced to 18 months probation and fined $2,000 after pleading guilty. He was also involved in a car crash in 2006, in which he was suspected of being intoxicated. The NBA suspended him during last season for violating its drug policy. He remained a part of the T’Wolves until he was given his release in March of 2007.
At the time of the fatal car crash, Griffin was reportedly getting back in shape to attempt a comeback playing in Europe.
Former Timberwolves coach Dwayne Casey reflected on Griffin after hearing of his death. “Everybody tried to help him from the top to the bottom of the organization,” he said to reporters. “He just couldn’t get it straight. It’s a tragic ending for a beautiful kid.”
Many people close to Griffin have said that his life changed when his older brother passed away in 2001. Marvin Powell was 16 years his senior and viewed as Griffin’s ‘surrogate father.’
After arguing about turning pro or staying in college, Griffin and Powell did not speak for a month. Powell, who starred for the Hartford University basketball team, had planned a family meeting to discuss this. Hours before he died, Powell tried to call Griffin, who did not answer his phone call. The next time he would see his brother would be at the funeral. 12 days later, Griffin announced that he was leaving college for the NBA.
There are so many intangibles in the life and death of Eddie Griffin. Unfortunately, the common denominator is what may have been.