The death of any young adult is a tragedy. But, there’s something even sadder when it’s an athlete in their prime years and peak physical condition. This focus is on the truly tragic: The accidents and freak medical conditions. Druggies, drunks and gangbangers are like all other losers. Even if they are Champions when they go down…
A truly tragic story, Ernie Davis died of leukemia just months after being drafted in 1962 by the Washington Redskins. The year prior, he’d been the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy after a stellar season as a running back with Syracuse.
Dan Snyder was an NHL underdog for 10 years before breaking the ice with Atlanta in 1999. After an encouraging 49 game stint in 2003, in which he played outstandingly, Snyder was a passenger in a teammate’s sports car that spun recklessly out of control at high speed. Snyder was left in a coma but died 9 days later.
In 2007, Sean Taylor was a rising NFL star, playing for the Redskins, when he injured his knee. Recovering at home after an operation, Taylor was shot by an intruder in his own bedroom, protecting his infant daughter and his fiancee. His killer is still unknown to this day.
Drazen Petrovic was one of a handful of European athletes who became a standout in the NBA, a feat considered nearly impossible in 1989. He was killed instantly in a head-on collision with a semi in Europe during the off-season in 1993.
Considered by many to be the greatest Featherweight boxer of all time, Salvador Sanchez was flying high in 1982 after successfully defending the championship for a record ninth time. Mysteriously, Sanchez died in a high speed car crash in Mexico, at 3:30 am, while his friends and family thought him to be safely in bed, resting up for a training session the next morning.
Reggie Lewis collapsed on the court of a Boston Celtics playoff game in April 1993 and doctors immediately diagnosed a rare heart condition, telling him his playing days were over. Refusing to believe it, Lewis sought a second opinion and was cleared. During a light training session in November, Lewis collapsed and stopped breathing. He died two hours later in a Boston hospital. An autopsy soon confirmed the first opinion.
Jerome Brown was a solid NFL Defensive Player for the Eagles in 1992 as the team was trying to rebuild. On July 25, Brown was killed, along with his 13-year-old nephew, in a car accident. At the time it was thought he’d been driving recklessly, but family members have always denied that finding, arguing vehemently that Brown would never have endangered his nephew. The truth will probably never be known. But, we’re willing to give them the benfit of the doubt…
On the cusp of making the pros, Hank Gathers was a top NCAA athlete and NBA prospect. On December 9, 1989, he died on the court after performing an Alley-Oop. Although speculation at the time was that he must have been on drugs (unfairly) it was soon discovered he’d actually passed due to a rare heart condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, an irregularity that affects the muscles inside the heart.
Despite the dubious fact that sports stars are dubbed “Heroes” by fans and media, Pat Tillman was the real deal. Tillman walked away from a multi-million dollar NFL contract and joined the Army after the 9/11 attacks. In 2004 he was killed while serving in Afghanistan. After his memorial, it was revealed the Army had covered up details of his death and confirmed it was due to friendly fire. What a true waste…