Benjamin "Benji" Wilson, Jr. (March 18, 1967 – November 21, 1984) was an American basketball player in Chicago, Illinois, who was shot to death on the eve of the start of his senior season in high school.
Wilson led Chicago's Simeon Vocational High School to its first Illinois State Championship in 1984, defeating Evanston Township High School in the final round.
ESPN HS regards him as the best
junior in the country for the 1983–84 season.
In July 1984, Wilson attended the invitation-only Athletes For Better Education camp in Princeton, New Jersey. A pioneer in high-school scouting, the AFBE camp (later ABCD) allowed scouts and coaches to watch top nationwide talent in a single location. After the week-long event, talent scout Bob Gibbons ranked WIlson the number-one high school player in America. As his senior season approached, Wilson was weighing scholarship offers from Illinois, DePaul, and Indiana.
Wilson was killed as a result of an altercation that erupted a block from his high school entrance, after he bumped into Billy Moore, a student from Calumet High School. There is controversy about the exact nature of the confrontation, but after a brief argument Moore produced a .22 pistol and shot Wilson twice. After he suffered severe blood loss awaiting surgery, Wilson failed to regain consciousness. Seventeen hours after the shooting, his mother Mary authorized the withdrawal of life-support, and Wilson died.
Moore and a friend, Omar Dixon, were arrested after another friend of theirs identified them to the police as the assailants. At trial, both were charged with robbery and murder. Both were convicted; Dixon was sentenced to 30 years and Moore to 40.
Wilson's friend and Simeon teammate, former NBA and University of Illinois player Nick Anderson, wore jersey number 25 during his career in his honor. Juwan Howard also wore 25 at the University of Michigan as a tribute to Wilson.
His story was the focus of a 1997 Nike advertisement that aired during the NBA Playoffs, which featured an aged man stating:
"One out of every five black men die before they reach the age of twenty-five.
That was Benji's number. Benji was the first in Chicago history to ever be named top high school player in the nation, right before he was gunned down.
But you know what? Benji's not dead: Benji's spirit lives on in every jump shot.
Remember: Shoot over brothas, not at them."
Current Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose graduated from Simeon in 2007. Throughout Rose's high school career he wore number 25 and continued Wilson's winning legacy at the school by achieving two state championships in 2006 and 2007.Simeon basketball player, Jabari Parker had the number 25 stitched into the team sneakers during his time at Simeon. ESPN plans to premiere a documentary on Wilson titled "Benji" on October 23, 2012.