Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hank Gathers

College basketball phenom Hank Gathers came to my dad's office for a check-up after he collapsed on the court on December 9, 1989.
The team of cardiologists found that he had an irregular heart beat.
They put him on medications. The medication slowed him down and he neglected to take it unless they lowered the dose.
After a few weeks of not being able to play and being slowed by the meds, he came back and he scored 48 points and grabbed 13 rebounds against Shaquille O'Neal in a nationally televised game when Shaq was at LSU.

Hank was only 6'8" 210 pounds, but he was one of the few players ever to lead the nation in both scoring and rebounding in the same season.
I remember a few months later, we were driving back from the horse races or one of my soccer games. On Coldwater Canyon. We heard on the radio that Hank had collapsed again on the court. My dad got angry and hit the steering wheel. He pulled over and called the hospital.
Hank was dead.
He was just a 23 year-old kid with so much promise. He dominated Shaq in a game. Not many people can say that. He dominated the entire NCAA for a season really. My dad said when they did tests on his fitness they had never seen anything like it and they see all the Lakers among many other athletes every year.
But it was 25 years ago on this day March 4, 1990, when we were driving down Coldwater Canyon listening to KNX 1070, we heard about it.
Later we found out, Hank had made a huge tomahawk alley-oop dunk while getting fouled. Before his free throw, he walked out to mid-court and collapsed. He died right there.
My dad said, "You know you would think I might get more used to it as I get older-- death. But I don't. I think I was much tougher when I was younger. It's much harder now. And this one is really painful." I was just as sad, but tried to be strong for my dad.

Rest in peace #44.

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