Take a look at the top players who died too soon and ended their NBA career. These players were at the peak of their popularity during their times. However, death became the inevitable reason why they ended it too soon. Continue reading the post and know these players! The death info of each is derived from publicly available sources such as Dead or Kicking.


Whether we like it or not, indeed, there is a sad truth that no one is exempted from death, and not even our favorite stars. They were just humans and death is also inevitable on their part! There were numbers of young NBA or basketball players who bid early goodbye on their career because of death. Some reasons were unexpected, and fans were left with no choice but to accept and mourn for the loss of their favorite athletes.

Here, we will tackle some of the most famous basketball players during their time, but they weren’t able to stay long enough to enjoy their career. So, here we go!

Top 5 Basketball Players Who Died Too Soon

I have listed the top five basketball players who died too soon and marked the end of their career as well.

Len Bias

Are you already familiar about him? Well, no one has ever got the chance to see how great this 22-year-old star from the University of Maryland might be in the NBA. Who would have thought that this star would have died two days after he was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1986? And the reason for that was because of a cocaine overdose.

During that time, he was thought to be one of the greatest players in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference who joined a team along with Dennis Johnson, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. Indeed, they could have sent shivers throughout the rest of NBA. Nevertheless, the said lineup had never taken the court at the same time.

And due to his death, the anti-drugs law and the NCAA regulations became stricter. His life and influence were also chronicled in the documentary by ESPN entitled “Without Bias.”

Hank Gathers

There was talk that the first overall selection might end up being Hank Gathers during the 1990 NBA Draft. After all, he would lead the country when it comes to rebounding and scoring while playing at the Loyola Marymount University after he transferred from USC.

He was an All-American player who averaged 29 rebounds and 28 points per game at Loyola Marymount. However, his name was never recognized in the draft.

In December 1989, he had a health scare due to collapsing on the court during the game wherein he was then diagnosed with an abnormal heartbeat. Nevertheless, he stopped taking the medication with a thought that it was only making him play worse.

And that decision might be the reason why he collapsed again in the West Coast Conference Tournament on March 4, 1990. He stopped breathing and was taken to the hospital but its too late because he was already pronounced dead at the age of 23.

Eddie Griffin

Indeed, the death of Eddie Griffin was a shocking and tragic story that stunned not just the NBA but the sporting world as well. He was a standout player during his college years and was considered to be one of the next superb players in the NBA. However, he was apparently a troubled soul which plagued his NBA career.

Eddie Griffin started a bright career in Houston. However, he struggled with alcoholism that caused him to miss a year season because he entered the rehab. In 2004, he was then picked up by Timberwolves and started to show promise. But, he then crashed his car while intoxicated in 2006 and so released by the Timberwolves.

And in 2007, Griffin died because he ignored a railroad warning and continued driving through the barrier on the tracks wherein his car was hit by the moving train. He had to be identified by dental records.

In fact, during his career, many wanted to help him, but he was indeed battling demons, and so he was just 25 when he passed away.

Reggie Lewis

This star was the guard of Boston Celtics, and he was in the middle of his career when he collapsed and died in 1993. He just finished his campaign with an averaged of 20.8 points in every game. He was set to be the franchise player of the Celtics in the post-Larry Bird era since he was an All-Star in 1992.

His sudden death was because of a structural heart defect. He was 27 years old that time, but he had shown signs of heart problems a couple of months earlier when he collapsed during the first round playoff series of Boston against the Charlotte Hornets.

And at the ceremony during the 1994 to 1195 season, Boston Celtics retired the no. 35 jersey of Lewis.

Drazen Petrovic

This NBA star was most remembered during his time in with the New Jersey Nets, but he was already a star prior to joining the NBA.

It might be ironic that he got to begin with the Trail Blazers. He stands 6’5” as a shooting guard and was known to be one of the first Europeans to be successful in the NBA. And because of that, his play opened the doors for others like Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki.

He finished his NBA career as the third-best-three-point percentage in the league history. In 2007, he also inducted the FIBA Hall of Fame, and that was 14 years after he died. Drazen Petrovic death happened in a traffic accident at approximately 17:20 on Monday, June 7, 1993, four and a half months before his 29th birthday.


These are just among those basketball stars who were just beginning their career or who were in the middle of their career but have lost the chance to enjoy it until the end. Though they haven’t fully enjoyed their NBA career, they still made a huge impact in the sporting world. In fact, most of them served as an inspiration to many NBA players of this generation.

If you have questions or would like to add something, feel free to leave your comments below!