It should have been a great weekend for an outstanding high school player from North Carolina who some say could have been one of our future stars.

James Hampton did the right things. While the combination of his 6’5″ frame and the athleticism to play the guard position is important,  it was hard work that got him into the athletic minded private high school. Making the elite league AAU team took working to improve every day. Just this month he had received his first offer for college from division one Hampton University and was likely to receive more. He was on the path to great basketball accomplishments.

First College Student In His Family

Like many of the kids in our game, James saw basketball as a way to improve the life of his family.  They aren’t what anyone would describe as “well off.” Whether it was Hampton or another school, the hard work he put into his game would enable him the opportunity to be the first member of his family to attend college.

James played with Team United, an AAU program based in Charlotte. They made the over five-hour trip to Hampton, Virginia over the weekend for an event part of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League. While he hadn’t committed to Hampton University, it had to be interesting to be playing in the city he now had the choice to play in for the next stage of his career. Icing on the weekend cake was Scotty Pippen in attendance to see his son play with another team at the event.

“Hey Ref”

Instead, he spoke his last words on the court on Saturday. Just before collapsing on the court he said “Hey Ref.” When he arrived at a hospital less than one mile away, he was pronounced dead at 17 years old.

The team director of Team United, Jacoby Davis, spoke to the Charlotte Observer:


James was an active Twitter user and posted and retweeted themes about staying focused, being goal oriented and controlling your own destiny. Two Tweets seemed to jump right off the page from March 26. The latter was an acknowledgement of the passing of Zeke Upshaw who had collapsed on the floor in the G-League just two days prior in similar circumstances and also passed away.

The tweet immediately prior  is gut wrenching.

As we learned this weekend as James lost his life, no one has to take it from you. In the blink of an eye it can be taken from you, stolen by no one.

You now have a choice. You can be depressed by that harsh reality or ask yourself what you are going to do about it.

The vast majority of us have just learned about James since Saturday as news reports rolled out. I don’t pretend to know more about him than anyone. From what I have learned, it’s fair to say if it were any other player on Saturday we know what James would do today.

Get up shots. Get better.

For those that didn’t know him, each of us can honor his memory by following his example in whatever it is we do.

Go get better.


On behalf of the ABA Gold staff,  as many have done throughout the week, we extend our love and condolences to the family, friends and teammates of James Hampton. From what we have heard and read, it was a privilege to have known him. We all wish we could have had the opportunity to. 

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Nike EYBL: Charlotte AAU player James Hampton dies after collapsing during game

James Hampton so wanted to play basketball with his friends and AAU teammates that he spent Saturday morning riding a bus from Washington, D.C., to join them.Hampton traveled to Hampton, Va., where hi…

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