Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wright's death signals more than just one life gone

Explaining life's twists and turns becomes more difficult as every day passes.

When Memphis police found former NBA player Lorenzen Wright's body Wednesday in a wooden area, it signified one more twist of life gone astray.

Wright, who played for five teams, including Atlanta twice, leaves a reputation of playing hard and tough wherever he suited up as well as being a loved and respected teammate.

On a larger scale, the 34-year-old Memphis native left behind six children whom he loved greatly and a family searching for answers they'll never receive.

At some point, the facts behind his death will surface.

However, how Wright, who was as far away from being a 'thug' or 'hoodlum', ended up in a violent-death situation likely never will be answered.

Wright was here in Sacramento briefly with the Kings. He came Feb. 16, 2008 along with former Kings guard Anthony Johnson, Tyronn Lue and Shelden Williams as well as a 2008 second-round pick in a trade for Mike Bibby.

Wright played just 13 minutes in five games with the Kings, so there is no Sacramento basketball legacy.

More importantly, as a man, Wright, even during the uncomfortable position of joining a team in mid-season, displayed only class and a smile as he sat in front of his locker.

I didn't know him before he arrived, but I'd been told by Memphis Commercial-Appeal beat writer Ron Tillery that he was as good a guy as would be encountered.

Tillery was absolutely accurate. I used to go out of my way to speak to Wright because he appeared somewhat lost. He'd joined a bad team at a bad time. He was a basketball player who wasn't playing, a position only totally understood by those who have been there.

Often times we look at players as mercenaries, as pieces of flesh, as chattel who perform professionally. We don't see them as fathers away from their families. Rarely do we think of them as sons carrying the weight and responsibility of caring for their parents, families and often times, friends.

Yet, that's who they are. Yes, many players make big-time money and some like Wright wear nice jewelry and drive pretty cars, traits by which they are judged.

Wright's life had gone south. He'd had homes foreclosed on in Memphis and in Atlanta and recently had gone through divorce from his wife.

One wonders if his financial troubles played a role in his death. Yet, ultimately, his death at 34, puts his wheelchair-bound father in the position of burying a child. A father, who had been confined to that wheelchair because he'd been shot.

That's a position, particularly during these crazy times, in which parents far too often find themselves. Wright already had been in that situation when his 11-month-old daughter, Sienna, died from Sudden Infant Crib Syndrome.

Some folks will not or can not understand others seeing Wright as more than a man gone, but also as an African-American man gone before he turned 35.

They'll see it as an unnecessary factual inclusion.

However, as an African-American, it's impossible to ignore this fact because in our society it occurs so frequently, and to families with children far younger than 34.

And it was impossible not to think of LeBron James since I learned of Wright's disappearance. Wright spent the 2008-09 season as James' teammate with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

James recently signed a contract that will pay more than $90 million over the next six years. Surely, James had heard of Wright's financial difficulties. One only can wonder if James ever had reached out to Wright to help.

James cannot serve as rescue LeBron for every one he knows going through a similar situation. The same goes for Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert, who likely has more money than he can spend during his lifetime.

It also has been impossible to think about the agents who have represented Wright during his career. Part of their responsibility while representing Wright has been to help him establish and maintain financial stability.

His agents over the years may have tried to do just that, just as James may have reached out to help in Wright's time of need.

However, the NBPA (National Basketball Players Association) and the NBA soon will undergo negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement.

Let's hope there are discussions aimed at intensifying efforts to provide education for players like Wright to prevent them from falling into financial hell.

Let's hope Wright's situation is a sign to young athletes when they sign with an agent.

It's not only an agent's job to get a client a good contract, but to have a system established to help his clients take care of that money and himself.


  1. My friends and I read your posts often and sometimes discuss them when we get together if they spark a nerve. We wonder aloud why the quality of journalism you produce isn't picked up by a newspaper or magazine. Any chance you get hired by a newspaper or magazine. . . .SOON!

  2. Usually, I have answers to many questions, but I have none for this one. I read a lot and I've asked similar questions. All I can do is continue plugging and see how life unfolds.

  3. Wish you the best Marty. This is very high quality, come to expect nothing less. See you around Arco.

  4. Agreed. Compassionate journalism finally. RIP Lorenzo.

  5. This is better than anything I have read in the Bee in a long, long time. Always love reading your work, Marty, and hope you get rolling soon with a good outfit and get taken care of!!!!!

    Excellent points raised, and I really appreciated the inside look at Lorezen's life. I hope the NBA can make those adjustments to help all players take care of themselves and their families....

  6. Its like a jungle sometimes and we all have to keep from going under. The NBA, can be doing more for these guys. Then its as you say, players need to be taking care of players, past and present. Oh I guess that's too "ole skool". Or maybe its not my worry or responsibility, says one player to another. There's definitely more then enough money being passed around to help out. Someone needs to tell Mr.T. Evans, about two likable and respectable people named Malik Sealy, and Bobby Phills. Stop acting like a youngster, youngster! Slow your roll. Great writing Marty Mac. As usual.

  7. God bless the Wright family. God bless, us all.

  8. Robert, thanks for the kudos... Ricardo, thank you as well for the kind words. Scoop, what up my brother. Indeed, on the outside we see one side of NBA, but there is a cold piece and the youngsters are younger than ever before with more money and distractions. I know Tyreke has been told, but I definitely plan on talking him up and informing him about Bobby Phills. Malik Sealy, for the record, wasn't speeding or racing. He just ran into a deadly DUI whom I've read has been driving the same way since... You know we all have to do the dumb stuff as we go through the learning phase... Stay up and thanks for the comments. OOOOOOKKKKKK