On December 9th, 1918, Hank Gathers stepped up to the free throw line. Ready for the free throw, he collapsed suddenly. Although he got up and continued the game he was later diagnosed with an abnormal heartbeat. He was prescribed inderal to help his heart but it trapped his full potential, affecting his play drastically. He mad a decision to miss his appointments and cut down on the medications. Four months later, on March 4th, 1990, in a tournament game against Portland, Hank ran up the court on a fastbreak received an alley oop pass, made an spectacular play, slamming the ball home. After he landed he took a couple steps up the court, collapsing, only this time, he didn’t get up. As he was on the ground the team doctors and trainers told him to stay on the ground. He put his head up using his last words to say, “I don’t want to lay down,” confidently, before dropping back onto the floor unconscious. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
He was the face of college basketball in the 80s, he was the face of the WCC Tournament, and most of all he was the face of Loyola Marymount, their players, coaches, and staff. He and his Loyola team led the NCAA in scoring as a team, breaking scoring record after scoring record. This team was something special and Hank Gathers was the center of it. His death was a huge tragedy and a heartbreaking loss for not only Loyola Marymount, Hank’s family, and college basketball, but a huge loss for all sports overall as news of his death traveled across the nation.
After his death many things were done to honor this great being. His teammate Bo Kimble shot the first free throws in the rest of the NCAA tournament with his left hand sinking each of the three lefties he attempted. In addition, he was named the Player of the Decade, by WCC not only for his death, but his greatness and the legacy he would be leaving behind. One of the biggest ways he was honored in my opinion was by his team as they entered the NCAA tournament ready to demolish everyone in their path, not for themselves though.. but for Hank, their teammate, their brother, the family member who they all loved so much.
Hank Gathers left a mark on all the people and places he had been during his lifetime.He died so young and had the greatest potential. It was a truly heartbreaking loss. Hank could have been something. He would have been something. He led the nation in rebounding and scoring in college and gave it his all no matter what. He was the recipient of multiple All Player Awards, MVP Awards, and was even named Player of the Decade of the 1980s.In addition, Hank, knowing that he was undersized, knowing he was projected to struggle with the pros, did not care. He was prepared and didn’t have the thought of failing anywhere in his head. Hank Gathers would have been something. Hank Gathers would have been a great something. What a heartbreaking loss it was..
P.S. I would like to shout out my friend, Ronak. His work inspired me to write this blog. Check out his similar post here.