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Basketball Mon Oct 22 2012

ESPN Tells the Tragic Story of "Benji"

Tim Hardaway, Derrick Rose, Isiah Thomas, and Ronnie Fields are some of the names that resonate with basketball fans in Chicago.

Before there was someone named "Air Jordan," there was "Benji."

At 7pm Central time this Tuesday, Oct. 23, ESPN Films' "30 for 30" documentary series will focus on the life and death of Chicago basketball prep star Ben "Benji" Wilson, the Simeon High School forward who was murdered on the eve of his senior season in 1984. Wilson was first the local high school basketball player to be named the number one recruit in the country.

This is not just a regular story about a kid from the South Side of Chicago who was murdered. This was a kid that everyone in the city knew was going to be one of the greats.

Basketball in Chicago is a big deal. Similar to how football is revered in Texas. When Wilson was murdered, it sent shock waves throughout the city. His death still resonates in the minds of Chicagoans. I was about 5-years-old when this all happened, but as a kid growing up on the South Side, I heard a lot about Ben Wilson. Benji was supposed to be one of the greats.

A Nike commercial that came out some years ago said it best:

"One out of every five black men die before they reach the age of 25. That was Benji's number. Benji was the first in Chicago history to ever be named top high school player in the nation, right before he was gunned down. But you know what? Benji's not dead: Benji's spirit lives on in every jump shot. Remember: Shoot over brothas, not at them."

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