In 1995, Chicago’s Farragut Academy had one of the best players in the U.S., Kevin Garnett. While his talent was undeniable then and only proved more correct during his NBA career, he wasn’t the only basketball prodigy on the team. In 1994, Garnett was teammates with a player named Ronnie Fields who raced toward a star-making NBA career before tragedy struck.
Kevin Garnett’s high school teammate
In the mid-’90s, a bevy of NBA-ready talent swept the hardwood at high schools. With some exceptions, most American players who made it into the NBA went through college first. However, with talents like Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant on the floor, teams started seeking younger players.
Ronnie Fields was an ideal guard next to his superstar teammate at the school. He was only 6-foot-3, but with a 52-inch vertical, he made up for it in sheer athleticism. While Bryant was already making waves with his domination on the high school basketball court, some believed that Fields was the next big prodigy.
South Chicago had a brand of toughness on the basketball court that resonated across the country. Because of this, Fields and Garnett learned how to cope using grit and tenacity.
“You can tell playing in Chicago, that wore on (Garnett), especially bringing that toughness out of him,” Fields told ESPN. “Not saying he wasn’t tough before, but the difference between being from the South and here is we got your back. Here, you don’t worry about those things. From there, his confidence continued to grow. That’s why he’s where he is now. It’s not surprising to me.”
Farragut had everything, and while it failed to win the state championship during Garnett’s final year, many believed that Fields was good enough to take them there the following year.
Tragedy strikes Ronnie Fields
In early 1996, Fields was riding high. His team had just won the city title without Garnett, and he was getting ready to take his next steps toward greatness. Unfortunately, just before his 19th birthday, Fields was involved in a car accident. While trying to avoid hitting something in the street, he swerved and crashed, details AP News.
There were no drugs or alcohol in his system, and Fields did not appear to be driving recklessly. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to save him from injury. Fields fractured his cervical bone and sustained injuries to his hands and feet after the wreck. At the time, people didn’t know what his long-term prognosis would be in the aftermath.
The legend who never was
Fields thrived on his athleticism to rise above the competition, details Pro Ballers. His foot injuries, however, made it impossible for him to return to the level of talent he reached before his accident.
On top of this, Fields had signed a letter of intent to play at DePaul but was ruled academically ineligible. He took his talents to the CBA, where he was selected in the seventh round. After declaring for the 1998 NBA draft, he waited as nobody called his name.
Fields wasn’t entirely robbed of a successful basketball career, however. He suited up for several pro teams across the world following his undrafted year. Unfortunately, when most fans think of Fields, they think of what never was. Now, he has a second career as a motivational speaker. Fields uses his story to make a difference in the lives of others.