Former Tiger basketball players say they can't believe Lorenzen Wright is gone but they say his death is about more than losing a U of M standout and former NBA player; his passing symbolizes the loss of a role model.
It was a moment in time that didn't need words. Yet, just the expressions of shock and disbelief on the faces of former U of M Tiger basketball greats, Elliot Perry and Anferenee Hardaway told more than words could say about the heinous murder of their brother in spirit, Lorenzen Wright.
"Anytime a young person dies...if that's the case, in his prime, it's too early. Specially when we look up to those people. Sometimes we think those guys are invincible," said former Tiger and close friend Elliot Perry.
Named as a college All-American during his playing days with the Tigers, the agile 6'11 Lorenzen seemed wrapped in that mythical "cloak of invincibility" as one of the most gifted athletes to ever don the blue and gray. Yet, it was his hard-working, blue-collar attitude that he brought to every game which left an indelible mark on Tiger fans.
"So, we just going to have to come out and play hard because everybody's going to come out pumped to just play against us and try to beat us. So, we going to have to come out with our "hardhats" on every game," said Wright referring playing on the court.
But, while others may have scored more points or grabbed more rebounds in Tiger lore, the affection of Tiger fans for Lorenzen was also elevated by his heartfelt and active involvement in the community he grew up in. The summer basketball camp he sponsored and organized for nearly a decade provided opportunities for thousands of kids to learn to enjoy the game he'd loved all his life.
"I couldn't pay a $100, $200 for any kind of camp when I was a kid growing up and I don't expect for kids to have to worry about that," said Wright at one of his basketball camps.
"You know I'm walking up to 9 year old kids who know who Lorenzen is and that just speaks for his legacy all together right there. If a 9-year old, 8-year old kid knows who he is. I mean that's your legacy right there, man," said a fan at the scene of the where his body was found.
Over the days to come, what may emerge surrounding the investigation into Wright's death might not be pleasant to hear. But, for his family, friends, supporters and fans of Tiger Nation, the memory of a man, whose heart and concern for others more than matched his stature, is already firmly established.
"No matter what Lorenzen was going through at the time. It doesn't take away from who he was as a person. Everybody goes through ups and downs and I only heard about he wasn't doing as well financially. But, that still didn't make him who he was. Still a great guy. Loved to live life," said Anferenee Hardaway.
A memorial account for Lorenzen Wright has been opened by his family. Donations are being accepted at any Memphis area Regions Bank.