The reason why we love sports so much is because it takes us a bit away from reality. Brings us in this new world of emotions, where we forget about our problems in the real world. Sometimes those problems catch up to us. Sometimes we are reminded of the struggle that is near us.
This is a list of 6 Sportsmen who have died from a heart attack, doing the thing they love most, on the field that they played.
6. Hank Gathers
One of the greatest players that never happened had died on the basketball court at age 23. His name was Hank Gathers. Born in Philadelphia, standing at 6 foot 7, Hank was a part of a blitzkrieg that was finally done right. His athleticism scared rival players, and amazed NBA scouts. Hank was able to grab a penny off the top of the backboard, with the right timing, and leap.
Lived most of his life in a territory that was a haven for danger, all he had was a basketball. Played in Loyola Marymount where he averaged 32.7 points per game, and 13.7 rebounds per game during one season. He went back to the same college in 1989-1990, by the wish of his mother. Mid season he suffered his first heart problem during a game.
He took medication, and by the words of his teammates we now know, that the medication took a huge toll on him. The last play that he made in his life was an alley-oop. He collapsed after that and he was brought to the locker room, where he was shocked by a defibrillator. He came alive again briefly, but then returned to his endless slumber.
5. Miklos Feher
As it is said “You win some, you lose some”, but there are times when there is no winner at all. #29 Miklos Feher was a football player loved by all. He had been a part of some top teams, he was the only player to go from Porto to the rival Benfica, and still be loved and accepted by both fans. On the 25th of January 2004, Miklos was a part of the team that traveled to Vitoria Guimaraes. He was subbed in from the bench, and provided the assist to what seemed to be the winning goal of the game.
At the second half of extra time, he was given a yellow card for what the referee thought was “stalling of the game”. He laughed and shrugged it off, as he took a few steps back he stumbled, and collapsed. Many players came to his side, preventing him from swallowing his tongue, while waiting for the medical interference. As he was carried out to of the pitch, a teammate shouted “Don’t let him die”. Tragically he passed away 2 hours later.
One season later his team Benfica won the championship and awarded Miklos’s parents the medals that he would have acquired. The final heartwarming act was done when the Portugal team hosted the Scottish Celtic. Supporters of Celtic unraveled a huge banner containing the number 29, and the words “Feher, nunca caminharas sozinho”, “Feher, you’ll never walk alone”. The number 29 shirt has been retired ever since.
A lot has changed since his death. Players are given a lot more medical treatment, and a lot more heart checks.
4. Chuck Hughes
-The only player that has died on the field of a NFL game. This today remains the biggest tragedy in the NFL.
On the 24th of October, 1971, a game was played by the Detroit Lions, at Tiger Stadium. The opposing Bears team was set off to win the game 28-23, there was supposed to be a single winner in that game, but in the end, nobody won. Near the final minute of the game Chuck Hughes, the Lions wide receiver, goes out to the huddle. Moments later he collapses. Dick Butkus frantically waved his hands, trying to get some medical attention, a few minutes later, the whole stadium was silent.
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Measures were taken up by the NFL, increasing the health checks for players. Chucks wife sued the hospital that did not find the heart problem. Eventually winning what we all guess to be 10+ million. To honor the late Chuck Hughes the Detroit Lions retire the number 85 jersey, and they give out an annual “Chuck Hughes most improved player” award.
3. Denny Hulme
-The first F1 world champion to die of a heart attack during a race, behind the wheel of a BMW M3.
Denny Hulme, “The Bear”. He was one of the most unusual F1 drivers we have ever witnessed. Born, and raised in New Zeland. He went from the tobacco farm to F1 races, his country roots can be seen at the start of his career. Most of the races he participated in, he raced barefooted. He would have an amazing first F1 season, finishing fourth overall, and finishing second in La Mans as a part of a photo finish with Ford.
The year he finished first overall, was the year he needed to get a minimum third in the Mexico race. As clutch as “The Bear” is, that’s what he did. After a few years, he returned home, and paused the racing for a not too long timeframe. It was not long till he started racing again, but this time it was not F1. It was October 1992 where we would see Hulme crash in the Australia’s iconic Bathurst 1000. He suffered a heart attack behind the wheel at age 56, thus crashing in the wall, and passing away short after.
2. Marc-Vivien Foe
Great players come and go, but legends stay forever. Marc-Vivien Foe will forever stay in our hearts. The dreadful 72nd minute, of the Columbia Vs. Cameroon game, played at Lyon’s Stade de Gerland of the Confederations Cup. Marco’s (as teammates liked to call him) team won the game 1-0 and continued to the finals against France. In the end the game had a bitter taste
The game was normal, nothing strange had happened until Marco collapsed midfield in the 72nd minute. Paramedics and teammates rushed to help him, giving him multiple CPRs, and mouth to mouth aid until the ambulance comes. The game seemed to have a winner, and the Cameroon team was celebrating in the locker room, but it was all in vain. Cameroon had lost a great player.
The death of this player has raised awareness about the medical problems in football players, his death probably saved 20 others, as the FIFA head medical officer said that, if a defibrillator was used 3 minutes into his fall, that “That gives us an outcome of about 70% living.”. He was given a state funeral, where every African player that meant something was there. A banner was held at his funeral saying “a lion never dies, he just sleeps”.
1. Reggie Lewis
“I’m fine,” he answered, in his sweet, lazy Baltimore drawl. “Just waiting my turn.” When he was asked about his rookie season, where he played 8 minutes per game. A few years later, the biggest NBA tragedy happened, a player died on the court. During the game he stumbled to the ground once, but thus the heart of a lion, he continued playing, and in a blink of an eye, the medical team took him away, and in the hospital it was announced that, he was gone.
Boston’s young that looked up to him were shocked, the team, the city, the whole league, all shocked. By the time he passed away, he was a part of the six NBA players who, from the year 1988-1993, put up at least 7,500 pts, 1,500 rebound, 1,000 assists, and 500 steals. Players including the greats, Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, and Charles Barkley. This was not your ordinary player, in the 31st of march, the Bulls were leading by 3 near the last seconds, when out of nowhere Lewis drilled one from 3 to tie it. At the end the Celtics won, and nobody dared to rib Jordan about the skinny kid from Baltimore that blocked MJs 4 shots.
Then again the good die first, but the story of Reggie Lewis will always will be remembered, yet only questions remain after his death. What could have happened to the League if Reggie had not died, that day? Would Jordan get his titles? Would Boston get any titles with Lewis? We will never know.