Charlotte’s Phills killed in auto accident

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 13, 2000

The Associated Press

Charlotte, N.

Thursday, January 13, 2000

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Charlotte, N.C. – Investigators have estimated that Charlotte Hornets guard Bobby Phills was driving more than 75 mph in a race with teammate David Wesley when Phills lost control of his Porsche and was killed.

The two Hornets players were in a spur-of-the-moment race, known under state law as a spontaneous speed competition, police Sgt. Ricky Robbins, a supervisor in the traffic unit conducting the investigation, told The Charlotte Observer. The speed limit in the area where Phills wrecked is 45 mph.

Phills lost control of his car just before 11 a.m. Wednesday and died instantly, police said.

Racing on public thoroughfares is prohibited by state law, and the district attorney’s office will determine what charges, if any, should be filed, Robbins said.

Both players have been charged with speeding in the past, the Observer reported.

In February, Phills was charged with driving 60 mph in a 35 mph zone on Main St. in Pineville. 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.

Stunned and tearful teammates and Hornets officials gathered at the accident scene less than a mile from the Charlotte Coliseum, where minutes earlier Phills and the other players had been practicing for Wednesday night’s game with the Chicago Bulls. The game was postponed.

Phills, a 30-year-old guard, was traveling at ”a very high rate of speed” after a team shootaround at the Charlotte Coliseum when his Porsche collided with a car headed toward the coliseum, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police spokesman Keith Bridges said. A minivan rear-ended the other car. The drivers of the other vehicles were hospitalized.

Wesley’s white Porsche wasn’t involved in the accident, but he was questioned at the scene. Bridges said it will be at least several days before investigators reconstruct what happened.

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. Firefighters had to cut his body from the wreckage.

”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, 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…”

”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.”