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Remembering Ben Wilson

October 23, 2012

When I was in high school, my friends and I were basketball junkies. Growing up in Midwest in the early 80’s we believed we had the best high basketball players in the country. Between Detroit, Flint, Lansing, and Chicago there was not another region of the country that could boast better high school talent. And in 1984 the best of the best was Ben Wilson. Even up in rural Michigan we were talking about how good Ben Wilson was.  In Michigan we had Glen Rice and the boys at Flint Northwestern.  But everyone knew that the cream of the crop was the skinny kid from Simeon High School in Chicago – Ben Wilson.

Like Wilson, the fall of 1984 marked the beginning of my senior year. And like Wilson we had a great basketball team returning for a run at the championship. My friends and I not only kept up our games, but we also kept an eye on the players from around the state and in Chicago. We were excited to see what the great teams from around the state were going to do, and in particular how Ben Wilson would play and where he would go to college.

News didn’t travel as fast as it does today. There was no internet or 24 hour news cycle in our area. We had to wait on the papers for most of our news. And remember when my best friend brought the paper to school that read: “Ben Wilson shot and killed.” I couldn’t believe! How could Ben Wilson get killed? He was the best high school basketball player in the country. He was one of us – young, agile, gifted, and invincible. It can’t be!

It was.

Tonight ESPN 30 for 30 is airing a documentary called Benji. It is on the gifted life, tragic death, and lasting impact of Ben Wilson. Listening to these stories and seeing these images put me back in those days and reminded me of just how fleeting life can be. Nothing is guaranteed, not even the can’t miss talent of Ben Wilson. It’s a powerful film, and one that will not only pull at your heart-strings, but also remind you that our lives are but a vapor (James 4:14), and “all flesh is grass, and all beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isa. 40:6-8).  Ben Wilson was an inspiration to us back then. Today his story is a reminder that there are no guarantees but Christ.


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