Garland, Texas, native Mookie Blaylock was a standout at the University of Oklahoma. A gritty, ballhawking defender, Blaylock helped the Sooners to a spot in the 1988 NCAA title game.
Born Daron Oshay Blaylock, Mookie eventually played three seasons for the New Jersey Nets, who nabbed him as the 19th pick in the 1989 NBA Draft. An NBA All-Star in 1994, Blaylock was twice the NBA steals leader and twice a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive Team.
Blaylock played three seasons with the Nets. He suited up for the Hawks from 1992 to 1999 and ended his career with the Golden State Warriors in 2002. During his 13-year career, he averaged 13.5 points per game, 6.7 assists, and 2.3 steals.
While the black letter would suggest Blaylock was an above average point guard; a professional who pieced together quality career, the stat sheet didn’t record how many games Blaylock played high. The six-foot point guard smoked weed, sometimes massive quantities, before most games. He also began to develop an alcohol problem during his time in the league, recording a DUI in 1995.
As is the case with so many athletes, when Blaylock retired, with millions safely squirreled away, his substance-abuse issues became more pronounced.
The 1995 DUI grimly foreshadowed an awful theme of Blaylock’s retirement: arrests for driving under the influence. He was arrested six times for DUI from after 2007. At one arrest in 2010, his blood alcohol content was a staggering four-and-a-half times the legal limit. He was so drunk that he got out his car while it was in neutral and it started to roll away. He tried to flee the scene of a 2013 accident after ramming a car in a grocery store parking lot.
Plainly, the man was out of control, which makes the events of May 31, 2013, even more tragic—for his victim, not for him.
Frank and Monica Murphy driving just south of downtown Atlanta around one in the afternoon. Frank, behind the wheel of the couple’s Chrysler Town & Country minivan, had just started inching the vehicle forward after stopping at a red light.
At that moment, he saw Blaylock’s massive black Cadillac Escalade speeding toward them at a 45-degree angle from the opposite lane. The out of control car was traveling in excess of 50 miles per hour. Murphy was a sitting duck: no momentum to move his car, boxed in, the Escalade bearing down. He couldn’t do a damn thing as Blaylock’s vehicle violently smashed into his, destroying the front end of the helpless driver’s van.
The impact largely spared Frank. Monica wasn’t so lucky. The mother of five was crushed by Blaylock’s Escalade, stuck between her seat and the encroaching dash in an awful sandwich. After hanging on initially, she died of the catastrophic injuries in a hospital a few days later.
This made Mookie Blaylock a killer.
But would he be convicted of vehicular manslaughter? Was he drunk? It turns out, no. He was, however, not permitted to drive. Blaylock had recently quit drinking and was suffering from violent withdrawal seizures. His doctor had ordered him not to drive, and the former point guard had gone so far as signing a document pledging not to do so. His license was also suspended, owing to a 2012 DUI arrest.
So while he wasn’t drunk, his recklessness and dependence on alcohol led directly to an innocent woman’s death. He pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter in 2014 and was sentenced to 15 years.
“When we ran his criminal history, one of the first questions we asked was, ‘Why is this man still driving?’” said Tasha Mosley, Solicitor General of Clayton County, Georgia, where the accident took place.
Former NBA star or no, it’s enraging that a man with seven DUIs wasn’t in prison. And when you’ve shown the sort of judgment Blaylock did, suspended licenses or pledges not to drive are paper-thin defenses.
While Blaylock’s downfall is unfortunate, it’s the senseless slaughter of Monica Murphy that is the real tragedy.