Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bobby Phills' death: 10 years later

I wrote a long column today about former Charlotte Hornet Bobby Phills, who died 10 years ago in a crash in Charlotte on Tyvola Road.

The column is focused upon whatever happened to Bobby's wife Kendall Phills and the couple's two children (now 13 and 11), as well as David Wesley, Phills' best friend and teammate at the time. Both Wesley and Bobby Phills were speeding excessively at the time in their separate Porsches, headed toward breakfast at a pancake house after a game-day shootaround before a Hornets home game. (Although police theorized the two were racing on Tyvola, Wesley has always denied that. He was acquitted of racing charges -- but convicted of reckless driving -- six months later).

I remember that day distinctly -- Jan.12, 2000. I was in the same job as a sports columnist for The Charlotte Observer back then, too. My boss, Mike Persinger, called me with the news.

It was hard to grasp it, of course. Phills had been a favorite of media members who covered the Hornets regularly -- he was good to have a conversation with, and a natural leader, and honest. He was a family man with one, ultimately fatal flaw -- he loved speed. He drove too fast on a regular basis -- it was a terribly irresponsible thing to do, and he's fortunate he didn't kill anybody else because of this addiction.

The guy Phills hit was a local insurance adjuster named Rob Woolard, who was just minding his own business when Phills' black Porsche came skidding toward him. Woolard is the subject of this nicely-written sidebar by Peter St. Onge, also published today.

Seems like even longer than 10 years in some ways. The Hornets are long gone, to New Orleans. The Bobcats have been here for six seasons now, and finally have a team that may make the playoffs.

Wesley is 39 now, retired, living in Texas and hoping to become a basketball coach. Kendall Phills is now the shortest member of her family -- both her 13-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter are taller than she is. She jokes that she has to wear five-inch heels just to seem more like a Mom so she can get up above them occasionally.

But in some ways, it seems like it couldn't have been that long ago.

Ten years?! Oh, man.

"I just wish..." Wesley said, when we were talking about Phills at one point in our interview. And then the call got dropped. He was driving on a rainy highway in Texas, fading in and out already, before I lost him.

When I got hold of Wesley again a few minutes later, he started telling a story about how he and Phills were way down once at a blackjack table in Las Vegas, and he wanted to walk away, but Phills kept encouraging him to stay with it, that they could make it all back up. And finally, they did, and a lot more after that, and Wesley still considers one of the most fun nights of his life.

Wesley never did say exactly what he wished for -- but it's not hard to guess. He misses his friend. A lot of us do.


Anonymous said...

Great story scott on 2 nba players who liked to gamble,speed,race around the streets of charlotte,drive recklessly,and endanger other lives.What a winning article.How about writing about the true heroes and nice citizens or sports figures who DON'T gamble,speed,race,drive recklessly,or endanger lives????

Niall Doherty said...

Great article. Thank you. The first commenter needs to realize that Phills made a dumb mistake and paid the ultimate price, but that shouldn't take away from all the positive things he did in the community when he was alive. It's a shame that some people choose to focus on the worst traits of others.

Anonymous said...

that was such a bland article. was expecting more.

Viagra Online said...

ten year, figthing until the terrible final comes, this I call a brave person, someone that never surrender, no matter if the death is knocking the door.

Rees Russell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rees Russell said...

The first guy that wrote these things about true hero's, etc. really bothers me. He obviously didn't follow the sport nor these guys. Because they were speeding this now makes them bad or unimportant to write about? Gambling is legal in Las Vegas and honestly speeding is wrong, sure. These were great guys and a true loss was felt by many that day. As a matter of fact, these are two guys that I respected very much and were great for Charlotte and sports in general. I still think of the loss of Bobby Phills that day with disbelief and can't get over thinking the area and sports world lost one of its really good guys that day. To the first guy commenting, people make mistakes but doesn't mean they were bad people or not hero's to some. They did a lot for the community and being so closed minded about them is ignorant at best. Yes focus on the negatives and not the positives huh?? To say Scott shouldn't basically write about this or these guys and this story is assonine. Its a story, a sad one that affected many people. RIP Bobby Phills

Anonymous said...

I read this story about Phils and Wesley and I see two individuals who were of good mind, and unequivocably well liked by the media who had a weakness called ...well, an obsession, relative to speed and challenge, with no regard for the consequences. But it seems to be similar to another renowned Hornet/Bobcat of similar orientation with similar fascinations with speed and gambling named JORDAN, who had similar inexplicable and unresolved conclusions which also included the tragedy of loss of life. I was speaking in reference to the loss of his father, and how tragic that too was.