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 Sunday, January 16
Hornets' Phills, 30, killed in car crash news services

 CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Investigators believe Bobby Phills of the Charlotte Hornets was racing with teammate David Wesley at more than 75 mph when Phills lost control of his 1997 Porsche 993 Cabriolet, skidded into oncoming traffic and was killed.

"It looks like they were drag-racing, which is legally defined as spontaneous speed competition," Charlotte-Mecklenburg police spokesman Keith Bridges said Thursday. The speed limit where Phills wrecked is 45 mph.

Bobby Phills
Police examine Bobby Phills' car, left, at the scene of the accident.
Phills, 30, was leaving a team practice at the Charlotte Coliseum about 11 a.m. Wednesday when he lost control of his car less than a mile from the arena. Police said his car collided head-on with a vehicle headed to the arena. Phills was killed instantly.

A minivan rear-ended the other car, police said. Listed in stable condition at Presbyterian Hospital were Robert Woolard Jr., 31, of Cornelius, the driver of the other car; and Yao Agbegbon, 33, of Charlotte, who was driving a minivan taxi, Bridges said.

No charges have been filed against Wesley, who was driving a 1997 Porsche 996 Cabriolet that wasn't involved in the accident.

Wesley, the Hornets' starting point guard, has refused to talk to police, Bridges said. He said any charges must await completion of the crash investigation, probably sometime next week.

Both Phills and Wesley have been charged with speeding in the past, according to The Charlotte Observer.

In February, Phills was charged with driving 60 mph in a 35-mph zone on Main Street in Pineville, N.C. Court records show he paid a $25 fine and $86 in court costs.

Wesley was twice charged with speeding, according to Mecklenburg County court records. In October 1997, he was charged with driving 60 mph in a 45-mph zone. He paid $80 in court costs, according to court records.

In December 1998, Wesley was charged with driving 79 mph in a 65-mph zone on Interstate 485. He paid $80 in court costs, and successfully completed the National Safety Council's defensive-driving course six days after he was charged, according to court records.

Stunned and tearful teammates and Hornets officials gathered at the accident scene. Minutes earlier, Phills and the other players had been practicing for Wednesday night's game with the Chicago Bulls. The game was postponed.

Capt. L.E. Blydenburgh, the police crash investigator, said Phills lost control of his Porsche on a hilly curve where the posted speed was 45 mph. "The skid marks indicate he was not going in a straight line," he said.

Bridges said Phills' 1997 convertible, with the vanity plate "SLAMN," left skid marks several hundred feet long and came to rest in one of the opposite lanes.

"This is the ultimate tragedy, and our immediate thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Kendall, children and family," Hornets owner George Shinn said in a statement. "Not only was Bobby a tremendous person, but a great husband, father and role model that everyone respected and admired. He was someone that you would want your children to be like."

Phills and his wife have two children -- Bobby Ray III, 3, and Kerstie, 1.

"He touched all of our lives," said Bob Bass, the Hornets' executive vice president of basketball operations. "It's shocking."

Phills, a 6-foot-5 defensive stopper, started often at shooting guard or small forward for the Hornets, and sometimes played as a reserve. He was considered one of the team leaders.

He joined the Hornets in 1997 after six years with Cleveland and was in the third year of a seven-year, $33 million contract. Phills averaged 10.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists for his career. He was fourth on the team in scoring this season.

Active in the community, Phills volunteered for children's charities and related organizations. In 1998, he was one of four finalists for the NBA's Sportsmanship Award and started the "Bobby Phills Educational Foundation."

Phills earned a bachelor's degree in animal science from Southern University. His father, Dr. Bobby Phills, is director of the College of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Agriculture at Florida A&M University.

"He was such a special person, I worked hard to try to steer him away from the NBA. Having coached there, I felt he didn't belong there," Ben Jobe, Phills' former coach at Southern, said Wednesday.

"He could have been one of the foremost black leaders in the country," he said. "He had the brain power, he had the great family background. He had everything. For years, I tried to get him to go on to med school like he talked about when he was a kid."

Clay Moser, an assistant coach when Phills played for the CBA's Sioux Falls Skyforce, said Phills had wanted to be a veterinarian.

"He was a very in-depth person and just a treasure to be around," Moser said.

"We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of this outstanding human being," said Southern University Chancellor Edward R. Jackson. "This young man represented the very best of Southern University. He was not only a world class athlete, but also a world class humanitarian."

Cavaliers president Wayne Embry gave Phills his start in the NBA by signing the guard to a 10-day contract.

"Bobby Phills was all that you would want in a human being," Embry said. "He had extreme high character. A family man. I can't tell you what he meant to the Cavs. If there's a person you would want to your children to be, a role model, it's Bobby Phills."

NBA commissioner David Stern said Phills was "a caring member of the community."

"Bobby Phills represented the very best of the NBA," Stern said.

Phills' death was another in a series of shocks to hit North Carolina sports in recent months.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Steve Chiasson died in May when his pickup truck crashed outside Raleigh. Police said he was driving drunk.

Former Carolina Panthers receiver Rae Carruth was charged with killing his girlfriend in November and could be sentenced to die if convicted of murder and conspiracy charges.

In October, Hornets guard Eldridge Recasner suffered a broken shoulder and a collapsed lung and teammate Derrick Coleman was charged with drunken driving in a traffic accident.

According to the NBA, there have been three other active players who were killed in accidents: Drazen Petrovic (1993) and Terry Furlow (1980) in car crashes and Nick Vanos (1987) in an air crash.


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 Keith Bridges explains how the accident happened. (Courtesy: WSOC)
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 Hornets spokesman Harold Kaufman says the team is trying to cope with the death of Bobby Phills. (Courtesy: WSOC)
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 The Cavs' Bob Sura reflects on Phills, his late ex-teammate.
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 VP of Broadcast Operations Steve Martin speaks highly of Bobby Phills.
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