A Chicago basketball legend has passed away, and the Windy City hoops culture is taking the loss hard.
39-year-old Najeeb Echols died Wednesday in Kansas after suffering a heart attack.
Hearing one of my brother’s left the world last night has me sick. I love you forever brother!! @NajeebEchols I will never forget you were the #1 8th grader in America in our class. Talented and always kind to everyone. Rest in power King!🙏🏿🙏🏿😪😞🙏🏿🙏🏿 pic.twitter.com/CZKRd7T3f8
— 🌎 (@Brandon_B_5) December 14, 2022
The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Echols’ passing, quoting Jason Straight, a longtime friend of Echols, as saying, “I’m just distraught, I had to leave practice, leave school today. He was an unbelievable guy, not just a basketball player. He was a talented singer and piano player.”
Who Was Najeeb Echols?
Echols was a part of a legendary Chicago high school hoops team that featured basketball stars such as Quentin Richardson, current Missouri coach Dennis Gates, and Cordell Henry. The Whitney Young High School basketball team was one of the greatest ever out of the area, winning the state and city championship in 1998.
At that time, Echols was just a freshman, but he would eventually go on to be one of the top scorers in the state. He also would go on to become one of the top 10 prospects in the country.
His senior season was spoiled as he had to sit out because he transferred from Young to Morgan Park, which got him ruled ineligible before attending Missouri.
Some other nuggets about Echols worth mentioning: His mom was in Earth Wind and Fire. His appearance on a Fox series about high school stars made him one of the most anticipated Missouri players ever.
Preps: Chicago Hoops
In 2001, Jason Straight, Echols, and future NBA star Eddy Curry were a part of a popular TV show “Preps: Chicago Hoops” that aired on Fox Sports. Echols, Straight, and Curry were all close friends at the time and remained so for a while afterward.
Jason Straight told the Sun-Times, “Eddy and I used to make fun of Jeeb all the time and ask him if he was going to be a baller or a singer, we were all recently talking about getting together to do a where-are-they-now? type of look back at the guys from the show.”
Najeeb Echols Was A Baller And Singer
Najeeb Echols went to college at Missouri and Illinois State, and also played college ball there too. He worked for Farmers Insurance as well, and in 2012 he started a basketball and track youth program called “Whatever It Takes Premiere Youth Club”.
Echols leaves behind a wife, Jaime, and two kids, a son Jalen, and a daughter Jada.
His daughter, Jada, is a very talented runner herself.
Straight told the newspaper, “She is amazing, she’s had some unbelievable times. [Echols] was really looking forward to her being a collegiate athlete. He was helping her and a lot of other kids.”
Following Echols’ death, his wife, Jaime took to Facebook to post a message Wednesday night.
“My heart is breaking as I write these words . . . My husband, teammate, best friend, and the love of my life passed away early this morning. The world has lost an amazing man, but heaven has gained an amazing angel. My husband has earned his wings. His life was wonderfully lived and is deserving of being wonderfully remembered.
‘‘The funeral arrangements are pending through Eli and Sons Funeral Home. Jalen, Jada, and I appreciate the love, thoughts, prayers, and condolences you all have sent our way. Thank you so much.”
Eddy Curry and Quentin Richardson have yet to say anything regarding Echols death.
Prayers to Echols family and friends as they go through these tough times.