Eddie Griffin. R.I.P.

(Consider this the counterpoint to Dr. LIC's warm appreciation)

Back when Kobe was facing charges, I used to hassle the Recluse for an expert opinion. As awful as this sounds, I really didn't want to lose the experience of watching Bryant play. I know that I'm supposed to have a conscience, and view sports as more than self-contained spectacle. In this case, though, I selfishly enjoyed Kobe Bryant's game that much. I imagine that, if Vick hadn't already loudly announced his pro limitations, I might be feeling some of that over his plea.

It's been years since I bemoaned the loss of Eddie Griffin the athlete. When he came into the league, he embodied everything my basketball awareness holds dear. On the court, he ping-ponged back and forth between swag and utter serenity; his presence was sketchy and yet utterly thick with implication, like it was only a matter of time before something amazing came into focus.

Here's the thing about Eddie Griffin, though: above all else, he was a deeply flawed human being. The Recluse brought up Len Bias; Bias had his heart give out in an era when everyone did blow. That's bad luck—we should feel sympathy for him, but it's also okay to wish otherwise as sports fan. It's not even crass for the Celtics faithful to lament what his death did to their franchise.

Len Bias is a tragedy because of what he could've been; Griffin, on the other hand, was doomed from the beginning. In some ways, he might as well have never been an NBA player. His demons were going to run him down sooner or later, and that wondrous game of his? In the end, it existed only to remind us all how little it actually mattered.


At 8/21/2007 11:34 PM, Anonymous db said...

Isn't there a more tragic aspect, where Griffin also represents so many people for whom flawlessness is never really experienced or imaginable, even as it is harshly applied by the media eager to scribe morality plays. For that reason, more than his individuality, I mourn.

At 8/22/2007 1:16 AM, Blogger Vinnie said...

Re: point made in DLIC's post... That ESPN main page right now is more interested in the Yankees-Angels game than Griffin. I guess he should've played in New York if he wanted his death noticed.

At 8/22/2007 2:14 AM, Anonymous lakeunion said...

while this certainly is a sad story..nothing can compare to Bias' tragedy..

At 8/22/2007 2:17 AM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Can we get some Billups on Eddie?

Somehow I think I'll feel better if Billups act as Speaker for the Dead.

At 8/22/2007 3:06 AM, Blogger T. said...

I'm not sure you should or can gauge "more tragic" or "sadder" - I mean beyond all their successes and lack of fulfilled potential on the court - they were both human beings with families and friends.

I wasn't really old enough to appreciate Lenny Bias (I was 12 in 1986) but I knew Eddie tangentally through his time at the Rockets, and he was just the quietest kid. Amazingly frustrating - because you could see the talent, but you just kind of knew he'd never really put it together.

At 8/22/2007 3:20 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

here's a comment rocco chappelle left, circa 6/06:

At 2:17 PM, Rocco Chappelle said...

Eddie grew up about 6 blocks from my childhood home.

He dunked on me (no great feat) when he was in the 6th grade (pretty awesome).

There was a huge bidding war among catholic high schools in Philly for his services.

He was a local legend by the age 13.

I don't know the dude, but I knew some of his people coming up.

I say this with no sense of jest or mockery, but this dude doesn't have long for this world.

His is a sad, SAD story.

At 8/22/2007 7:13 AM, Anonymous bernard snowy said...

I made an Eddie Griffin joke the other day and then had to explain it to my roommate; now I find out he was already dead by then and no one even fucking knew it. what a kick in the teeth.

At 8/22/2007 9:07 AM, Anonymous Torgo said...

Is there any chance, you think, that this might get people to back off the instant joke button whenever an athlete has a clear mental issue? When Griffin tried to OD on aspirin (I believe it was) there were jokes him, largely aimed at the unmanliness of mental distress. The Raiders lineman, right before the Superbowl? Every comment about him was that he'd left his team, that he was a bad person. Later, of course, it came out that the guy had serious problems, but those were never reported as heavily as his Superbowl meltdown.
Or even Tracy Mcgrady, last season (or the season before, was it) when he missed games, and how quick everyone was to say "there's no way this is depression, he's not weak like that". Just the mere idea that it might be depression (I don't have numbers, but isn't there a staggering percentage of the country that deals with depression at some point in their lives?), just that minor hint, it seemed like you might as well call him soft, weak, or fuck it and go all the way and say he's not a man.
I'll miss seeing the stat lines he'd throw up when the spirit so moved him. They always made me smile, gave me hope that he'd stick around long enough to get himself put back together. I wonder why he didn't get the help he needed, why those around him didn't do their damndest to heed the warning signs.
5 days. Damn. I don't wish that death on anyone.

At 8/22/2007 11:22 AM, Blogger Bongo said...

I'm struck by how much people here, on this site, have connected with this event. There are so many deaths in the world, that it is literally impossible to comprehend or to feel for every one of them. So we choose; we mourn over those we know as friends or family, we lament and wonder about those who existed on a public realm somewhere above us, and, somewhat unfortunately, we orate and politicize the statisitics of deaths that exist en masse. But maybe this FreeDarko thing means something, and it is in this sense: people here seem to know Eddie Griffin through his style of play, which is what I think this is all about. Pretending that we know Eddie Griffin has allowed us to feel for his death, in a way not done by a headline on a sports ticker somewhere. I think that speaks to what this site, and what many of individually, tries to do: find the humanity in sports. And through this dictum of style as human knowledge, we've taken a tragic event outside the context of sports, and found a level of empathy that I haven't seen elsewhere. And empathy is something we could all use a little more of. So RIP Eddie Griffin. We pretend we knew ye, and it doesn't make a difference that none of us actually did.

At 8/22/2007 8:41 PM, Blogger nerditry said...

Is depression and prescription drug abuse not the '00 version of eighties self-centricity and coke abuse?

I genuinely felt my world pause when the news came across the ESPN ticker last night. The 2000 Seton Hall team was not FD, but it was that type of team and a person of Eddie's contrasts that eventually bore this space.

This is cause for a deep breath.

At 8/23/2007 1:32 PM, Blogger William said...


I am interested in this as well. I remember a little earlier in the summer the Oregonian published an article about Martell Webster, the #6 pick of the Zers a few years back, attending psychiatric sessions. First, I thought it was ballsy as hell that he would admit to seeing a shrink, and then realized that it would probably taint any success he would go on to have in the lig. Maybe this is all about class and acceptance of mental illness as a curable (or at least effectively treatable) disease.

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