My brother, my friend, Lorenzen Wright, has left us. No, has been take from us. He is gone to the heavens. But he will be remembered always for not only his basketball prowess, but his life off the court.
I got to know this him after he was selected in the first round (seventh overall pick) of the 1996 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers. From the time Wright was in the Clippers’ house, he and I had been friends. I’m sure him being a Kappa man helped our relationship, but he had more intrinsic depth that that.
The 6-foot-11 Wright honed his game in Memphis before entering the NBA draft as a top 10 draft pick in 1996.
The 13-year NBA veteran was a people’s person. He established the Sierra Simone Wright Scholarship Fund following the tragic death of his infant daughter in March 2003.
He hosted a free week-long summer basketball camp for Memphis youth, volunteered as a member of the All-Star Reading Team for three years in Memphis, provided tickets to the youth of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Memphis through the Tickets for Kids program, and he re-enrolled at the University of Memphis in the summer of 2003 to complete his degree.
Wright wanted to coach at the end of his career to pursue a career upon his retirement from basketball. Always putting others first, he told me he wanted to do what he could to uplift his fellow man.
I do not now if I’ve ever met a nicer and kinder person than Wright. When the Clippers first drafted him he and I used to go on luncheon and meet at other venues after games or practice. He was a genuine and trustworthy person who cared about all he encountered.
The circumstances behind his passing are still in question as I write this e. Consider after a ten-day search, the body of Wright was found in southeast Memphis last week. The ex-NBA player, 34, was last seen on July 18, and a missing persons report was filed on the 22. Police are now saying his death was a homicide.
Wright’s body was found “riddled with bullets” in a wooded area. He was shot at least a dozen times and possibly as many as 18. The street near where Wright was found was often used as a shortcut to his mother’s house and it was his mother who reported him missing on July 22. A dispatcher in the suburb of Germantown said she heard a garbled male voice call in and then at least 10 gunshots were heard and then the call went dead and no one answered when the dispatcher called back.
In the hours before his death, it is reported that a woman dropped Wright off at a Memphis restaurant. Later that day he turned up at his ex-wife’s home to see his six children. He had planned to drive his kids to an Atlanta suburb and spend time with them for the summer.
But he never got his kids or went to Atlanta. Instead he was dealt an horrendous blow, the victim of American violence. Some noted that he always carried large sums of cash with him ($2000 or more) and that may have been a motive for the killing.
Like most young gifted athletes, Wright was lured into a professional basketball career by the promise of big money, expensive clothes, cars and women. He played for several NBA teams, including the Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Atlanta Hawks and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Some reports note that he had a custom-built 17-room home in Eads, Tenn., which was repossessed in May for $1.3 million, and that his Atlanta house was repossessed in January for $1.1 million.
It makes me wonder what the heck is going on. I’ve been told by many athletes that agents and accountants, mostly White, have ripped them off for thousands of dollars. The question becomes, why do the majority of Black men still select them as their agents and accountants?
How could a man like Wright, who did not do drugs or overspend have properties foreclose. I suppose the market that collapsed over the past few years affected all and lost million for many. What one paid for a property, no matter their income level, saw a depreciation not seen in this country since the Great Depression.
Now some claim that his loss of money caused him to commit suicide, but those reports were erroneous and unfounded. The fact now points to murder.
The investigation has led to why police didn’t do more to investigate a 911 call from Wright’s cell phone in the early morning hours of July 19, when he was last seen alive. Initially police said they had no indication of foul play in Wright’s disappearance, but developments are starting to prove otherwise.
My brother and friend, Lorenzen Wright, has left us all too soon, but his honorable spirit will live on forever.
Leland Stein can be reached at email@example.com.