10 Black Athletes Who Died Way Too Young

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With the recent death of Kenny McKinley, it seems that many of our young promising African American athletes have died tragically at an age way too young.

Hiphopwired.com wants to take time to remember some of these young talented athletes, that were impeded from ever getting to their all-star level they had potential of reaching.

Chris Henry – Age 26

Chris Henry was a wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals who was plagued by problems off the field. Just when it seemed he was turning things around, his life was tragically cut short when he fell out of the back of his fiancee’s truck during an argument. Henry’s death is one of the most tragic of these 10 athletes that died young.

Darrent Williams – Age 24

Darrent Williams was a promising young cornerback for the Denver Broncos, part of one of the most fearsome secondaries in the NFL. After a night of partying on New Year’s 2007, a disagreement in the club led to a drive-by shooting that took Williams’ life. Denver will always remember this young man on the list of 10 athletes that died young.

Sean Taylor – Age 24

Sean Taylor was a hard hitting safety for the Washington Redskins who was three and a half years into what was looking like a hall of fame career. In 2007, an armed intruder broke into Taylor’s home and shot him in the upper thigh, severing his femoral artery. Taylor died the next day at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Thomas Herrion – Age 23

Thomas Herrion was an offensive guard for the San Francisco 49ers. After an exhibition game against the Denver Broncos in 2005, Herrion collapsed and died in the locker room due to heart failure.

Reggie Lewis – Age 27

Reggie Lewis is the lone NBA player on the list of 10 athletes that died young that actually got to play in the NBA. He was a small forward for the Boston Celtics before collapsing during an off-season practice due to a heart defect. He averaged 20.8 points per game in each of his last two seasons with the Celtics, and finished with a career average of 17.6 points per contest.

Steve Mcnair – Age 36

Steve McNair led the Titans to the playoffs four times, and the Ravens once, and played in Super Bowl XXXIV with the Titans. He is the Titans’ all-time leading passer. He was selected to the Pro Bowl three times, was All Pro and Most Valuable Player in 2003, all as a Titan. McNair died on July 4, 2009, when his mistress,Sahel Kazemi, shot and killed him before turning the gun on herself.

Ernie Davis- Age 23

Ernie Davis died in 1963 due to leukemia.  The NFL running back for the Cleveland Browns, was the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy Award. His life’s story was made into a movie entitled “The Express”.

Walter Payton – Age 45

Although he may be the oldest on the list, Walter Payton still died before his legacy was complete.  Dying in 1999 from liver cancer. Nicknamed ‘Sweetness’, Walter was one of the NFL’s all time great running back, who played his whole career with the Chicago Bears.

One of his many achievements include breaking Jim Browns career record for total yards rushing. He also was a great humanitarian, and an advocate for organ donation and education.

Hank Gathers – Age 23

Gathers was an exceptional college basketball player, averaging 32.7 points and 13.7 rebounds in a season atLoyola Marymount, leading all players in those categories. Gathers never got to play in the pros however, as his life ended when he died of a heart-muscle disorder.

Len Bias – Age 22


Len Bias was selected second overall by the Celtics in 1986, expected to take over Larry Bird’s role in an aging dynasty. Like Gathers, Bias never played in the pros, dying from cocaine overdose after being drafted.  In college, Len Bias was compared to the likes of Michael Jordan, and is said to be the best player who never got to play in the NBA.

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