Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Yinka Dare, Four Years On

The other day, Ryan and I were emailing, and discussion turned to Yinka Dare, as it often does. I forget the context. It doesn't matter, really. We email about Yinka so frequently – along with Boubacar, and DeSagana, and Jahidi – that the references all tend to run together. Anyway, midway through one of his emails, Ryan admitted that he'd forgotten that Yinka had died. After a few minutes spent questioning Ryan's commitment to ludicrously athletic yet terribly uncoordinated African centers, it struck me: Yinka Dare has been dead for over four years now. The world has largely forgotten about him. Sure other terrible and awkward players have tried to take his place in the Terrible and Awkward African Center Pantheon, but for me no one was quite like Yinka.

Sort of like the Kennedy assassination to our parents I remember exactly where I was when it happened. My buddy Jon and I were at some lame house party in Georgetown scrolling ESPN’s bottomline for fantasy baseball updates when the death of Yinka Dare flashes by. To have his death announced on ESPN’s bottomline was a cruel, cruel irony for a man who never once had made the bottomline before.

Yinka Dare was 7-foot-1, 270 pound Nigerian with no semblance of basketball ability. This did not stop Big Yink from comparing his game to Hakeem and Shaq. He called himself “an ideal center.” He said he’d be “better than some of the best big men who ever played.” He made these statements not as a precocious rookie but a couple years into a remarkably dismal playing career.

You see Yinka Dare wasn’t just bad, he was astonishingly bad.

During his first year he played in one game for three minutes, had one turnover, committed two fouls, and missed his only shot – an airball of course. He promptly tore his ACL and missed the remainder of the season, thereby earning over $300,000 per minute.

The next season, Dare’s “best”, he racked up 626 minutes of play in 58 games. Per game he averaged 2.8 points, 3.1 boards, 2.0 fouls, and 0.0 assists. Or more accurately: 0.000000 assists. As in none. In 58 games, in 626 minutes Dare had 72 turnovers, but not once did he pass to someone who hit their shot. Not even once.

Midway through his third season, in his 77th game, and after 770 minutes of NBA playing time this Ripken-esque streak came to an end. Sadly there is no youtube clip to commemorate the occasion, but it is said that Yink was ecstatic, whooping it up, and overjoyed. It’s unclear if this exuberance led him to declare that he’d be one of the best of all-time, but it surely must’ve contributed. After all, assists don’t grow on trees, I suppose.

Dare played in just 10 games the next season before being cut. He bounced around the CBA and USBL until 2003 before retiring.

In 2004 Yinka collapsed and died in his home in New Jersey. A medical examiner determined that Dare had a heart attack due to an arrhythmia condition discovered when he was in college. All accounts were that Yinka was a kind, gentle person, a respectful and good kid.

I’ll always remember Yinka Dare fondly. The man played 1,002 minutes in the NBA and had just four career assists. His ever-present smile, delusions of grandeur, and basketball ineptitude made him a hard guy not to like. It’s been ten years since Yinka last played in the NBA, and I’m not sure we’ll ever see another player so bad and yet so likeable again.


Domer OC said...

I would say "Yinka we hardly knew yee", but I'm pretty sure Jeff and Ryan knew the Dare's pretty well...like well enough that I would buy it if someone told me they vacationed with them.

E. Myers said...

This is what it sounds like when doves cry