Today, the Bobcats are playing the Washington Wizards. Odds are this game won’t be remembered for years afterward. However, December 20 marks a day that some may remember.
Today is Bobby Phills’ birthday.
He would have been 41.
I shouldn’t get so emotional over this. I was too young to remember his games as a Charlotte Hornet. But I do remember when he died. I remember reading the newspapers. I remember the black jersey patch with his number 13. And what I can’t remember, I’ve rediscovered through the magic of YouTube.
I encourage you to do the same. You can watch highlights from game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Semifinals and see how Phills refused to roll over against Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. You can watch his career highlights. You can even find the Hornets’ farewell video that included the tear-jerking moment of Phills’ son raising his father’s jersey to the rafters at the Charlotte Coliseum.
So, I’d just like for everyone to take this moment to remember this man who had an indomitable spirit and worked more than most professional athletes to reach the level he was at before his tragic death.
Graduating from Southern University with a 3.2 grade-point average, Phills was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1991 but was cut before even playing a game. He signed with the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the Continental Basketball Association and proceeded to average 23 points, 6.5 rebounds and a little under 2 steals per game. After that, he signed a deal to play 5 years for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Phills continued his NBA career by signing a seven-year, $33 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets. In his 9 seasons in the NBA, he went from playing 4.5 minutes per game to playing 36.6.
And regardless of what you think about the circumstances of his death; regardless of his dangerous driving, remember that nearly everyone has a vice. Remember that Rob Woolard, who survived the automobile accident with Phills, has forgiven him. Remember that Bobby Phills was just as much a husband, a father, and a philanthropist as much as a professional athlete.
He and his wife, Kendall, had two children: Bobby Ray III (Trey) and Kerstie. Phills was also an active part of the Charlotte community, volunteering for children’s charities and other organizations. He started the “Bobby Phills Educational Foundation” and in 1998, he was a finalist for the NBA Sportsmanship Award.
Two weeks before the accident, Phills said in an interview, “I’m very secure with myself. I have a great family. I was raised by a great family. I have the American dream.”
And during this holiday season, I urge you to forget for the Bobcats’ struggles just for a little while and cherish the moments you spend with your loved ones. I think that’s what Bobby would have wanted.
- Cardboard Gerald