Sadly, we will never get to know just how brilliant an NBA career Benjamin Wilson would’ve had, because of his untimely death in the autumn of 1984.
ESPN films ‘Benji‘ tells the story of Benjamin Wilson’s rise from young basketball phenom, to the gruesome murder which left the country asking ‘Why him?’. Time did not allow us to fully understand Benji for the complex being he was, we can only wonder just what fueled his ferocious passion for the game or where his God given talent came from. Instead, we’re left with memories and accounts from those who knew him best and saw him play up close, and in person.
Benji dazzled basketball scouts with his sheer talent, and held the honor of being the nation’s top recruit. Benji led Chicago’s Simeon Career Academy to their first state title and had them poise for a second consecutive one up to his premature death months later.
The film explored the elements of black on black crime, and the social issues which leave Chicago, even to this day, as a place just rife with gang violence. The incident which left Wilson dead is one so trivial it’s quite mind numbing–how a bump on the sidewalk could lead to two shots being fired really makes one wonder.
What could’ve been, but ultimately wouldn’t…it hurts to think of the potential. Benji was all those basketball star cliches all rolled into one, and his career was right there for the taking. The film leaves on a bittersweet note, with the positives being more awareness in the move to prevent gangs and some new procedures in hospitals for trauma victims. Also, hearing the account for Benji’s murderer proved haunting and touching at the same time.
How many more young lives need to be lost, and how much more talent needs to be extinguished before history finally gets through the mind’s of people to make them wake up and think twice. Hopefully there will be no more ‘Benji’ stories, with a life cut short and questions left unanswered. If the film has one message surely it was to seize whatever life has to offer and leave no stone unturned.