Life is fragile. Must be Italian.
It has been unusually so, of late, for basketball stars who played in the eighties and nineties. Men shouldn't die this young and, as a middle-aged man who heavily followed basketball in that era, this serves as motivation to take better care of my body.
It also motivates me to pay tribute to the following four players who have passed away since the year began.
CHRISTIAN WELP (51), MARCH 1
Welp had limited success in the NBA, with short stints in Philadelphia, Golden State, and San Antonio after being drafted 16th in 1987, but was part of nine championships when his career shifted to the European leagues.
It was at the University of Washington, however, that he established most of his legacy. As a center for the Huskies, Welp became the career leader in points (2073), rebounds, and blocks.
As part of a German duo with retired SuperSonic Detlef Schrempf, Welp was a three-time All-Pac 10 selection and took Pac 10 player of the year in 1986.
He apparently died of a heart attack at a vacation home.
ANTHONY MASON (48), FEBRUARY 28
Mason was the 1995 Sixth Man of the Year and helped the New York Knicks reach the NBA Finals in 1994. He was a very physical player and was a fan favorite in New York during the Pat Riley years.
Mason died in the hospital after being admitted with a massive heart attack earlier in the month.
JEROME KERSEY (52), FEBRUARY 18
Though he played for various teams, including the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1997-98 season, Kersey was best known for his career with the Portland Trailblazers during the glory years of Clyde Drexler.
He died of a pulmonary embolism in an apparent complication from a recent knee surgery.
ROY TARPLEY (50), JANUARY 9
Roy Tarpley's career is defined more for what might have been than what he actually accomplished. He was named the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year in just his second season, but his career began to fizzle after that due to addiction to drugs and alcohol, which led to his permanent ban from the league in 1996.
The cause of death has not been reported.
ENOUGH OF THIS
They say deaths like these happen in threes. We have now exceeded it by one. If you count coaches Dean Smith and Jerry Tarkanian, the amount is doubled. So can we please have no more of these deaths this year? They suck.
Rest in peace, gentleman. We hardly knew ye.