A friend of mine called me Saturday night with the news. And in this era of Trump, lies and the coronavirus, not much news is good. I would call what my friend told me no exception.
His tone coated in melancholy, he said Dwight “The Blur” Anderson had died. He was 59.
Now, I must tell you that you have to be of a certain age to know who Dwight was, and even if you are, oh, 45 or so, you have likely forgotten him. I would understand if you had.
But I wonder whether the story of “The Blur” is one we should remember and then share – if not among folk of my generation, at least among the Black boys and girls four or five decades our junior.
For Dwight, a 6-foot-3 guard at Roth High School in Dayton, Ohio, is the face of grand expectations gone sideward.
Back in the late ’70s, he was the best high-school player on earth. OK, perhaps that’s a subject worth a debate, because the Class of 1977 included Mark Aguirre, whose NBA career had moments of brilliance; the Class of 1978 boasted James Worthy, Dale Ellis and Clark Kellogg.
Dwight, however, brought more to basketball than any of these men. He was, if such comparisons can be just, as quick as Allen Iverson, as smooth as “Earl the Pearl” and as high-flying an act as Vince Carter.
For all the talented players who came a year before or a year after Dwight, betting men might have been smart to plop down Benjamins on him as the athlete most likely to change the sport.
They would have lost their money.
Little in Dwight’s life went according to form. He attended the University of Kentucky, a good place to hone his talents. His two seasons there were not quite a shipwreck; his game did change because, well, Kentucky coaches never had a player like Dwight.
Nor had any other coach on the college scene.
Dwight left in 1980, offering perplexing reasons why he did. He landed at Southern Cal, where he fell utterly in love with its warmth and its sunshine. He also found a third lover: cocaine.
The drug undid his life.
Sitting in a gym with him about eight or nine years ago, Dwight told me the first time he tried coke. He was at a typical SoCal party for the cool, a gathering that featured weed and coke.
A stranger offered Dwight a line to snort. He did, and he was hooked from then on.
I could write a book about the ups and downs his life took from there. He spent time on Dayton streets, in jails and on people’s sofas. Dwight got a helping hand – many of those hands, actually – along the way, but much of what he could have been was just moments of wistful thought.
Some people might look at Dwight as the hoops version of the sweet-swinging Roy Hobbs, the main character in the fanciful baseball flick “The Natural.” They would miss the real Dwight if they did. For his life unstitched early, and it stayed unstitched late.
Following his basketball failures, Dwight spent his life fighting addiction and searching for purpose. He never found the latter while alive. I pray he found it in death.