The rise lasted longer than the fall, but the success didn't last longer than the pain.
When someone mentions the city of Chicago and the topic of sports, basketball will surely arise in the discussion. Basketball in Chicago is a lifestyle; it's a gateway to a door that has a guard. The guard will only let one of every couple thousand players out of a city that is plagued by drugs, gangs, and violence. For former basketball star Benjamin Wilson, the guard was moments away from opening up the door. Then Benji was killed.
On October 23, ESPN continued its series of documentaries, the critically acclaimed "30 For 30" series, with a story named "Benji" that broke a broken city's heart. Benjamin Wilson, a 6-7 forward of Simeon High School, was deemed the best high school basketball player in the country. A nine-inch growth spurt over two years and the will to compete brought him from a no-name freshman to a can't-miss talent. With a state championship in Illinois his junior year and an absolutely dominant performance at a national camp, he had coaches begging at his doorstep in hopes to recruit the young star. Unfortunately for Wilson, the dream ended early. He was shot and killed in the midst of an argument with a stranger on the street. Once again, the city that gathered hope and pride around a special kid was brought back to a brutal reality.
Directors Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah created a remarkable documentary that sunk all of its viewers into the gloomy thoughts of "what if" and "why." Viewers could feel the sorrow through the hysterical cries from the women and the emotional breakdowns of the men. Anyone could feel the enormity of the name Benji Wilson when thousands of people showed up to his basketball games; when thousands gathered around the TV for updates on his condition; when thousands attended his open-casket ceremony in the gymnasium; when thousands attended his funeral; and when thousands awaited his family at the cemetery for the burial in the middle of the night.
It is saddening to see potential go unreached and talent go to waste. However, in a city such as Chicago, it is more saddening to see another mindless murder. It is the citizens who carry Chicago's reputation, and it is tragic stories such as Wilson's that make such a reputation a burden to carry.
In the documentary, there are many interviews with Wilson's friends, family and teammates. Their exceptional relationships with him made this already emotional story even more devastating. One of the main speakers in the film is Curtis Glenn, Wilson's older brother. He speaks of his unconditional love for Benji starting from when Benji was a baby to about the time that Benji put his state championship medal around him right after the game. The film also includes interviews with popular names such as R Kelly, Common, Scoop Jackson and Michael Wilbon. All four were close friends and neighbors of Wilson and they provide excellent contributions to the story.
Simeon High School has bred several once-in-a-lifetime talents since Benjamin Wilson's tragic death. Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose was a member of the class of 2007 and Jabari Parker, the nation's current number-one player in high school, will graduate in 2013. Though both players are valuable to the city's emotional rebuilding efforts, it is undeniable that those that lived in Chicago in November of 1984 will never truly heal from Ben Wilson's death.