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Benji Lives

33 years later, Ben Wilson’s spirit still resonates on the streets of Chicago.

On the South Side of Chicago, Ben “Benji” Wilson was more than a high school basketball star — he was a lightning rod of unstoppable hope, crossing over crack pipes, spinning around rat-infested sewers, and dunkin’ over abandoned buildings that stand as ghetto tombstones.

At the freshly plucked age of 17, he was a messiah, and the basketball that he effortlessly palmed in his large hands represented a world in dire need of a savior.


Benji was fast, Benji was graceful, Benji was otherworldly agile — but in front of a packed stadium of crying admirers and heartbroken spectators, he stood little chance in a game of one-on-one against a bullet. No last-second shots. Just gunsmoke and tears.

The messiah was dead. Shot to death by a stranger from the neighborhood.

33 years later, Ben Wilson’s spirit still resonates on the streets of Chicago, amplifying hope, restoring pride, and igniting promise.

His brother, Curtis Glenn, says that Ben “is as much of an inspiration today as he was in 1984.”

Benji is in many ways reminiscent of the Mona Lisa — a beautiful, angelic, unfinished exhibit of unfulfilled genius — and his tragedy has motivated generations of kids to finish this painting. To give it color, to give it vibrancy, and to give it what Benji was robbed of: life.

For the anniversary of his tragic death, GOOD visited the community where, to this day, Benji lives.

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