Eddie Griffin, 1972-2007

Tuesday evening, a wire story crossed stating that police had identified the body of the victim of last week’s SUV-train crash in Houston as former NBA player Eddie Griffin.

Griffin was just 25 years old at the time of his death, and it’s safe to say his life didn’t go as planned.

When someone dies, we usually end up making their life seem better than it was. The point of a eulogy isn’t to criticize, or pass judgement. But it’s hard to put a positive spin on the life of Eddie Griffin.

Here are the black and white facts:

-Griffin was the 7th overall pick of the 2001 NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets. He was traded to the Houston Rockets on Draft Day.
-Griffin played 303 NBA games over the course of 5 seasons.
-Griffin averaged 7.2 PPG and 5.8 RPG during those 5 seasons
-Griffin blocked a career-high 148 shots during the 2005-06 season, his first in Minnesota

Now for the dark side of his life: he missed the entire 2003-04 season battling alcoholism; he spent 15 days in jail on a probation violation (he was originally on probation for an aggravated assault charge); he was involved in an infamous car crash back in 2006; he was suspended 5 games in January for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy.

The list goes on. The fact is, Eddie Griffin is a cautionary tale for young players considering the NBA. But he is not Leon Smith, Korleone Young or Lenny Cooke. No, unlike those men, Eddie Griffin went to college. In fact, that’s where Eddie Griffin’s duel life started. On the court, he was outstanding, averaging more than 17 points and 10 rebounds a game for Seton Hall. Off the court, he was a troublemaker, getting into a high profile fight with a teammate. And while Eddie Griffin may have been physically ready for the NBA after a year of college (and honestly, he may have been physically ready straight out of high school), his year in college proved he wasn’t mentally ready -- and he never got there.

Based on the circumstances of his death, some people have speculated that Griffin committed suicide, and if so, I can only empathize with what he must have been feeling. Suicide is a terrible thing, but it is not something that is done as an impulse move.

There were times in my life where I felt like suicide was the only option. It’s hard to describe that feeling to someone who’s never felt it. Some experts say that it’s like not being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but honestly, it’s worse than that. It’s like there’s no tunnel at all. When you’re suicidal, you feel like life is just this horrible trap that is never going to let you go, and so there’s only one way out.

I’m just glad I had the support system I did to get me past those feelings. It’s just too bad that Eddie Griffin, for all his fame and money, couldn’t have the same.