Nunn Carries On 'Benji' Legacy
March 12, 2014
Ben Wilson's Legacy
Ben Wilson was murdered in 1984, but his basketball legacy lives on through his jersey number.Chicago is a basketball city. Through generations of amazing athletes, Chicago has produced players of NBA caliber for decades. Who comes to mind when you think of the best players in the history of the NBA? For some, they might not know the story of a high school player from Chicago's Chatham neighborhood on the South Side, a 17-year-old that was ranked the No. 1 player in the country - the first ever in Chicago - and was shot the day before his senior season. Benjamin "Benji" Wilson is still one of the most notable basketball names in Chicago even 30 years after his death in 1984.
A high school basketball phenom, Wilson led the Simeon Wolverines to their first state basketball championship at the University of Illinois' Assembly Hall his junior year before being senselessly killed on November 21, 1984, the eve of his senior season. After the tragic incident, then-Mayor Harold Washington spoke to grieving students, denouncing gun violence in the city and promising a new gymnasium for the school, to be named in Wilson's honor. The gymnasium was completed in 1987.
"Definitely in high school, during my four years [at Simeon] I heard about it," said Illinois freshman and Simeon alumnus, Kendrick Nunn. "I just felt like it was a sad story. He built a legacy that will never be forgotten and he has a legacy that's built on the court forever."
In the years following Wilson's death, only players that reached a certain standard of excellence were given the honor of wearing No. 25 for the Wolverines. In 2009, Wilson's No. 25 jersey was retired at Simeon Career Academy, 25 years after he was killed. Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose was the last player to wear the number.
At the University of Illinois, Nunn continues Wilson's legacy from Simeon in his own No. 25 Illini uniform. Nunn helped Simeon to four straight state championships, equaling the IHSA's record for consecutive titles. Illini teammate Jaylon Tate teamed with Nunn on Simeon's final two state title teams. Together, Nunn and Tate carry on the Simeon tradition at Illinois, where many great Simeon players chose to follow their collegiate dreams.
Slideshow - Simeon Alumni Who Wore #25 at Illinois
2014 - Present
2005 - 2009
1995 - 1997
1990 - 1994
1988 - 1989