In June of 1993, Brian Shaw, who just finished his fourth season in the NBA, got the dreaded phone call. His parents and sister were tragically killed in a car accident. His 11-month-old niece was in critical condition. For years, Shaw, playing for the Miami Heat at the time, beat himself up over their deaths. It wasn’t his fault, but Shaw believed he was partly responsible.
Brian Shaw’s basketball career
Brian Shaw was a 6-foot-6 guard who was a first-round pick in the 1988 NBA draft. The Boston Celtics selected him with the 24th overall pick. He signed a one-year deal with the Celtics and averaged 8.6 points and 5.8 assists per game in his rookie season. Shaw then signed a two-year deal to play overseas in Italy.
Shaw returned to the Celtics for the 1990-91 season and averaged a career-high 13.8 points and 7.6 assists per game. In January of 1992, the Celtics traded Shaw to the Miami Heat for guard Sherman Douglas. Shaw played with the Heat through the 1993-94 season.
Shaw played 14 seasons in the NBA and played with seven different teams. He capped his NBA career by playing four seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. There, he was part of three NBA Championship teams. After his playing days, Shawn got into coaching and was an assistant with the Lakers and Indiana Pacers before getting a head coaching job with the Denver Nuggets in 1993. He was fired in March of 2015. He returned to the Lakers as an assistant through 2019 and is now coaching in the NBA G League.
Shaw’s family tragically killed in 1993
Brian Shaw just finished his second year with the Miami Heat. The Boston Celtics had traded him during the 1991-92 season. In the 46 games he played that first year, he averaged seven points and 3.5 assists per game. His numbers were nearly identical in his second year with the team when he averaged 7.3 points and 3.5 assists.
After that second season with the Heat, Shaw’s life changed drastically. According to Sports Illustrated, Shaw’s father fell asleep at the wheel while driving in June of 1993. In the vehicle were Shaw’s father, mother, sister, and niece. They were headed to Las Vegas and had been driving all night.
The car rolled over, throwing all four from the vehicle. Only Shaw’s 11-month-old niece, Brianna, survived. Brianna, named after Shaw, was sent to the hospital in critical condition. Shaw and his wife, Nikki, would later raise Brianna.
Guilt haunted Brian Shaw
According to Sports Illustrated, Shaw said he couldn’t help but feel he played a role in the death of his parents and sister. The car his father was driving was a gift from Shaw. So was the house they were driving to in Las Vegas.
“I said to myself, ‘If I hadn’t bought the house down there they wouldn’t be goin’ down there,'” Shaw said. “If I hadn’t got my father a new car they would have just flown down there — I ran over every scenario in my head. … At the time, you know, I just beat myself up over it.”
If there is anything at all that could come out of this tragedy, it was a new outlook on life Shaw had. He even used that outlook during his time with the Lakers when he served as a mediator between heated teammates Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. “Well (the death of my family) came up,” Shaw said. “I brought that up and I talked about that making the most of the time that you have. Imagine what it would feel like if you got along and just worked hand-in-hand.”