The Harris County Medical Examiner’s office has identified former Rockets power forward Eddie Griffin as the man who died when the SUV he was driving plowed into a moving train in southeast Houston last week. Officials said Griffin, 25, drove his Nissan SUV through a railroad crossing barrier, past flashing warning lights and into a moving train in the 5300 block of Lawndale about 1:30 a.m. on Aug. 17.
The accident remains under investigation by Houston police. Griffin’s vehicle burst into flames on impact with the Union Pacific train that was hauling plastic, burning his body so badly that investigators had to use dental records from a Houston dentist whom Griffin had visited to confirm his identity Tuesday.
A ruling on the cause of death and manner of death and the results of drug and alcohol tests on the remains are pending. Griffin, whom the Rockets acquired for three first-round draft picks in 2001, faced off-court troubles throughout his NBA career. A power forward, he was released by the Rockets in 2003 after several run-ins with the law.
He spent time in the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., for alcoholism treatment in 2003-04. He played briefly in New Jersey for the Nets before moving to Minnesota to play for the Timberwolves, who waived him in March.
“If this is true, then Eddie is free now,” said former Rockets guard and NBA coach John Lucas, who worked with Griffin in Lucas’ Houston-based substance rehabilitation program. “I’m just sad. Just so sad.” [HOUSTON CHRONICLE]
RELATED: Eddie Griffin, the former Roman Catholic High star whose NBA career was marred by one off-the-court problem after another, has died at age 25. Griffin was considered the nation’s No. 1 scholastic player during his senior season at Roman in 2000. Shortly thereafter, he became involved in an in-school fight with a teammate and was forced to earn his diploma via home-schooling. Griffin played one season of college ball at Seton Hall, and spent NBA time with Houston, New Jersey and Minnesota. Reports of aggressive behavior and alcohol/drug problems were pretty much a constant through his pro career. Griffin’s final NBA team was the Timberwolves. He was released last March. [PHILLY.COM]
“What a tragic loss,” said St. Joseph’s Prep coach Speedy Morris, who tried to recruit Griffin out of Roman for La Salle during his coaching days with the Explorers and is a longtime observer of city high school basketball. “He was one of the best to ever play in Philadelphia. I’d have to put him up there with the great players in high school basketball history.”
WIKIPEDIA: Griffin had a history of violence dating back to his high school years. In his senior year at Roman, he got into a fight with a fellow teammate in the cafeteria and was subsequently forced out of the school, though he received his diploma a month after graduation; the teammate was expelled. At Seton Hall, rumors floated that he had gotten into several verbal and physical confrontations with teammates.
In February 2004, Griffin violated a court-ordered curfew stemming from an aggravated assault charge against his ex-girlfriend (he was accused of hitting her and shooting at her), and spent 11 days in jail. He pled guilty to deadly conduct over the aforementioned incident, and was sentenced to 18 months’ probation, fined $2,000, and ordered to take anger management classes.
On March 30, 2006, Griffin was involved in a bizarre car crash. Witnesses and friends stated that he was watching a “porn movie on a DVD in his vehicle, and was masturbating“. After the accident, Griffin entered a nearby convenience store. The store’s security camera recorded video of Griffin repeatedly saying he was drunk, that he didn’t have a driver’s license, and of him pleading with the man whose SUV he crashed into, offering to buy him a new car in exchange for not calling the police. Police eventually did arrive, however, but allegedly did not require Griffin to submit to a breathalyser test or field sobriety test. An investigation was conducted to determine if the officers violated standard protocol in light of Griffin’s celebrity status.