Somehow we all knew that it would eventually end like this for Eddie Griffin. Maybe the details of his death were not set in stone, but somehow you knew that his life would be tragically short, and that we would read of his violent passing in the paper one day.
Griffin was a wonder on the basketball court at Roman Catholic. 6'10" with explosive speed and a nice outside jumpshot. He wasn't afraid to mix it up inside either and was capable of domination against high schoolers as well as playground foes.
I remember seeing him steal the ball from an opponent going up for a shot in a summer league game, go around a defender, take it coast to coast and slam it home behind his back. It was pure virtuosity.
All I could say was "Jesus!" Coach Dzik sat beside me and just laughed.
But all was not well with Griffin. Teammates didn't have much good to say about him. There were rumors out of Roman of dark moments, a horrible temper. His one season at Seton Hall was marred by an ugly locker room fight.
His NBA career never lived up to the potential. There were car wrecks, problems with teammates and stays at Betty Ford and mental hospitals. The Twolves cut him this year after finally deciding that it wasn't going to get any better.
The lights appeared to be going out on Eddie Griffin's life. I remember thinking that maybe he would get it together this summer and play again, but it was not meant to be.
After medical examiners had to use dental records to identify his remains following the train wreck that ended his life, his lawyer spoke with uncharacteristic bluntness for an attorney:
"Eddie was a wonderful, gentle soul, but he was an alcoholic," Rusty Hardin, Griffin's attorney, told the Houston Chronicle. "Alcohol always got in the way. The one thing the Rockets didn't know and none of us knew was the extent of the problem. It's really tragic."
Alcohol and depression are a tragic combination. They rob the world of great people every day. My heart goes out to those who knew Eddie Griffin well and I hope they remember him as I do, smiling and laughing, giving teammates high fives after a summer league game.