Growing up, practically everyone collected, played or dealt trading cards. As Canadians, it was pretty much hockey and not much else, so when Hoops exclusively came out with NBA cards in 1989/90, it was on. I can truly look back to that point, and say that first taste, set off my unquenchable thirst for basketball knowledge. Not only soaking up the stats and info on NBA superstar-to-be David Robinson's rookie card, but also lesser known newcomers like Sam Mitchell of the expansion Minnesota Timberwolves. One coveted, hard-to-find card was that of an NBA rookie who I wasn't too familiar with, by the name of Ricky Berry.
Ricky Alan Berry was born in Lansing, Michigan in 1964. He was an honorable mention All-American at San Jose State University and was drafted with the 18th pick overall by the Sacramento Kings in the 1988 NBA Draft. The 6'8", 205 lb forward played in 64 games for the Kings and started in 21, averaging 11 points per game, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.3 assists. Quite respectable numbers, and solid stats to build on from his rookie campaign, unfortunately Berry wouldn't get that chance, as he committed suicide on August 14, 1989.
The Associated Press story reads; Berry, shot himself in the head today and died at his suburban home after a quarrel with his wife, authorities said. Valerie Berry found her husband's body in the family room of their new house, the gun and a suicide note were found at the scene. Berry, 24 years old, had quarreled with his wife on Sunday and she spent the night elsewhere. At a brief news conference, the Kings' coach, Jerry Reynolds, was overcome by emotion and could not read a prepared statement. Reading from Reynolds' notes after the coach left, Greg Van Dusen, vice president of the Arco Sports Complex, where the Kings play, said there had been no indication that Berry ''had any sort of depression or anything like that.'' Berry's father, Bill, coached him in college and is a scout for the Kings.
To this day, 19 years later, no one has an idea why. There was never an indication of financial or drug problems, and no apparent issues of depression. No true indication of why he may have pulled the trigger on the pistol he kept at the family home. Those that knew him said he was "a great person", "a flesh and bones superhero", and "a charming young man with a smile that could knock your socks off", all were shocked by the tragedy. Berry was also close to another Lansing, Michigan basketball legend, by the name of Magic Johnson. In an interesting twist of ironies, the day Berry took his life was Johnson's birthday.
Only a handful of people know what was in the suicide note, at least his family has the solace of whatever was written. The rest of the world is left to sit and wonder about the infamous legacy of the Ricky Berry rookie card.