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R.I.P. Lorenzen Wright

Posted by Neil Paine on August 4, 2010

We've all heard about Lorenzen Wright's tragic death by now, and even worse the fact that investigators suspect foul play. By all accounts, Wright was a great guy, one of those pro athletes who truly cared about the fans and the city he played in. But I've been struggling to eulogize his career, because at the NBA level it didn't quite live up to expectations -- as the #7 pick in the '96 draft, Wright turned out to be an average player at best, eventually settling into a part-time starter/backup role for most of his career. That said, though, Wright was unquestionably a good defender, ranking 12th in defensive rating among qualified power forwards during his stint in Memphis:

Rk Player Tm G MP DRtg
1 Ben Wallace DET 390 14405 92
2 Tim Duncan SAS 378 14024 93
3 Kevin Garnett MIN 403 15805 97
4 Kenyon Martin TOT 341 11201 98
5 Jermaine O'Neal IND 322 11691 98
6 Andrei Kirilenko UTA 350 11212 100
7 Donyell Marshall TOT 364 10838 101
8 Rasheed Wallace TOT 380 13504 101
9 Chris Webber TOT 286 10787 101
10 Brian Grant TOT 320 8584 102
11 Dirk Nowitzki DAL 392 15032 102
12 Lorenzen Wright MEM 336 8884 102

As former Grizzlies coach Hubie Brown said in the sidebar of J.A. Adande's piece:

"Lorenzen Wright was our rock at the defensive end of the floor.

In my second season with the team (2004-05), he helped us win 50 games and make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. He had a physical presence, understood his job, was totally professional and, in our style of play, he excelled.

[...]

Every guy on the team had a job and every guy had a major contribution toward what we were doing. But you can't do it unless you can rebound and have a physical presence, and that was Lorenzen Wright. Because of his size and physical toughness, his ability to defend and score in the low post, he stayed in the league for 13 years."

Wright was also one of the rare players to be among the best in the world at every level of basketball he played. Since 1977, here are the only players to: A) Make the McDonald's High School All-American team; B) Be picked in the Top 10 of the NBA Draft; and C) Play at least 775 career NBA games:

Player McDAA High School Draft College Pick # NBA Games
Shareef Abdur-Rahim 1995 Wheeler (Marietta, GA) 1996 california 3 830
Mark Aguirre 1978 George Westinghouse (Chicago, IL) 1981 depaul 1 923
Kenny Anderson 1989 Archbishop Molloy (Jamaica, NY) 1991 gatech 2 858
Benoit Benjamin 1982 Carroll (Monroe, LA) 1985 creighton 3 807
Mike Bibby 1996 Shadow Mountain (Phoenix, AZ) 1998 arizona 2 882
Chauncey Billups 1995 George Washington (Denver, CO) 1997 colorado 3 910
Shawn Bradley 1990 Emery County (Castle Dale, UT) 1993 byu 2 832
Antoine Carr 1979 Wichita Heights (Wichita, KS) 1983 wichitast 8 987
Vince Carter 1995 Mainland (Daytona Beach, FL) 1998 unc 5 852
Derrick Coleman 1986 Detroit Northern (Detroit, MI) 1990 syracuse 1 781
Patrick Ewing 1981 Rindge & Latin (Cambridge, MA) 1985 georgetown 1 1183
Danny Ferry 1985 DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, MD) 1989 duke 2 917
Kevin Garnett 1995 Farragut Academy (Chicago, IL) 1995 5 1124
Richard Hamilton 1996 Coatesville Area (Coatesville, PA) 1999 uconn 7 788
Grant Hill 1990 South Lakes (Reston, VA) 1994 duke 3 868
Juwan Howard 1991 Vocational (Chicago, IL) 1994 michigan 5 1116
Jim Jackson 1989 Macomber-Whitney (Toledo, OH) 1992 ohiost 4 885
Antawn Jamison 1995 Providence (Charlotte, NC) 1998 unc 4 864
Magic Johnson 1977 Everett (Lansing, MI) 1979 michiganst 1 906
Michael Jordan 1981 Emsley A. Laney (Wilmington, NC) 1984 unc 3 1072
Jason Kidd 1992 Saint Joseph of Notre Dame (Alameda, CA) 1994 california 2 1187
Joe Kleine 1980 Slater (Slater, MO) 1985 arkansas 6 965
Christian Laettner 1988 Nichols School (Buffalo, NY) 1992 duke 3 868
Danny Manning 1984 Lawrence (Lawrence, KS) 1988 kansas 1 883
Stephon Marbury 1995 Abraham Lincoln (Brooklyn, NY) 1996 gatech 4 846
Donyell Marshall 1991 Reading (Reading, PA) 1994 uconn 4 957
Tracy McGrady 1997 Mount Zion Christian Academy (Durham, NC) 1997 9 814
Alonzo Mourning 1988 Indian River (Chesapeake, VA) 1992 georgetown 2 838
Chris Mullin 1981 Xaverian (Brooklyn, NY) 1985 stjohns 7 986
Shaquille O'Neal 1989 Cole (San Antonio, TX) 1992 lsu 1 1170
Sam Perkins 1980 Shaker (Latham, NY) 1984 unc 4 1286
Paul Pierce 1995 Inglewood (Inglewood, CA) 1998 kansas 10 884
Ed Pinckney 1981 Adlai E. Stevenson (Bronx, NY) 1985 villanova 10 793
Rodney Rogers 1990 Hillside (Durham, NC) 1993 wake 9 866
Byron Scott 1979 Morningside (Inglewood, CA) 1983 arizonast 4 1073
Jerry Stackhouse 1993 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, VA) 1995 unc 3 896
Isiah Thomas 1979 Saint Joseph's (Westchester, IL) 1981 indiana 2 979
Tim Thomas 1996 Paterson Catholic (Paterson, NJ) 1997 villanova 7 824
Wayman Tisdale 1982 Booker T. Washington (Tulsa, OK) 1985 oklahoma 2 840
Antoine Walker 1994 Mount Carmel (Chicago, IL) 1996 kentucky 6 893
Rasheed Wallace 1993 Simon Gratz (Philadelphia, PA) 1995 unc 4 1088
Chris Webber 1991 Detroit Country Day School (Beverly Hills, MI) 1993 michigan 1 831
Dominique Wilkins 1979 Washington (Washington, NC) 1982 georgia 3 1074
James Worthy 1979 Ashbrook (Gastonia, NC) 1982 unc 1 926
Lorenzen Wright 1994 Booker T. Washington (Memphis, TN) 1996 memphis 7 779

All things considered, that's not the worst company to be associated with as a basketball player.

R.I.P. Lorenzen Wright, you will be missed.

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One Response to “R.I.P. Lorenzen Wright”

  1. Jason J Says:

    I really enjoyed watching those Hubie Brown Griz teams. The played a true team game, lots of movement and running, short rotations, and everybody defended. Not a ton of talent, but a lot of well-played ball.

    Wright's willingness to play the banger role was big for them because it freed up Pau from having to cover the opponent's best big man and pick up fouls and get wore out - much like Perkins does for Garnett or Thorpe would do for Hakeem.