Ben Wilson: Murdered Basketball Standout Featured On ESPN Documentary

Ben Wilson: Basketball Standout Murdered In Chicago In 1984 Featured On ESPN Documentary

Ben Wilson was a basketball standout killed in Chicago in 1984, one of 669 homicides in the city that year.

Though forgotten to many, Ben Wilson’s killing is gaining new attention thanks to the work of two filmmakers showing the boy’s brief and tragic life, the Chicago Sun-Times noted.

One of this filmmakes, Coodie Simmons, said he remembers being a 13-year-old living in Chicago when he learned about the shooting of Ben Wilson, the Simeon basketball star.

‘‘Back then, we saw a lot of people get shot and be OK,’’ Simmons said. ‘‘The next morning, I was home when I found out he died, and I was crying like he was my brother.’’

Simmons is a hip-hop director and filmmaker, part of the duo Coodie and Chike with New Orleans filmmaker Chize Okah. Their documentary, called Benji after Ben Wilson’s nickname, was made for ESPN’s “30 f0r 30” series. It debuted this week in the Chicago International Film Festival and played on ESPN on Wednesday at 7 pm.

For Benji, the filmmakers used methods they used in the video for Kanye West’s “Through the Wire.”

The Chicago Sun-Times notes: “Just as they deployed a striking use of Polaroids in that video, the filmmakers interpolate archival footage, first-person interviews and expressive black-and-white animation in relating Wilson’s alternately remarkable and tragic story.”

For Coodie and Chike, the story about Ben Wilson was as much about Chicago itself.

‘‘We wanted to tell the story of Chicago and how I felt, as a young man growing up there, with the danger of gangs, the thrill of house parties, where there was a lot of fun but also that bit of danger.’’

The film explores the parallel story of Billy Moore, the 16-year-old who would be convicted of Ben Wilson’s murder.

Ben Wilson’s killing had a major impact on Chicago, Bleacher Report noted. The young star had just led Simeon Vocational High School to its first title, and friend and future NBA player Nick Anderson would go on to wear No. 35 in Wilson’s honor.