The life of a young man bound for greatness on and off the basketball court was taken away too early, leaving his friends, family and teammates to deal with the immeasurable loss. Chris Bamba, Utica College freshman and a standout alumni of the Kingston High School basketball team, passed away on June 23 at the young age of 18.
Artist Jalani Lion honored Bamba on Sept. 25 in Kingston with a mural on Greenkill Avenue in Kingston, NY. Lion has been widely involved in his community already as both an artist and an activist for the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I was connected with Chris Bamba’s family by Dennis Washington of Kingston’s Boys and Girls club,” Lion said. “They were looking for an artist who made portraits for the Black Lives Matter mural on Broadway in Kingston, because they wanted the same type of mural to honor Chris. After I told them I painted the BLM mural, we put our heads together to come up with the vision for Chris’s mural and the rest is history.”
Before his untimely passing, Bamba had finished his first year at Utica College, where he played under Sean Coffey of the Utica Pioneers men’s basketball team. What made Bamba such a highly sought after player to Coach Coffey was their geographical connection, both growing up in the same area of New York.
“I watched him play against Middletown, and knew that he would fit right into our system if he came. He had so much energy whether he was on the court on defense, offense or even on the bench cheering his teammates on,” Coffey said.
Out of high school, Bamba was a slashing forward who had no problem creating opportunities for himself and his teammates. As he was one of the top tier players in his league, he only looked to get better on the next level.
“He was an energizer off the bench, had a team mindset first and we had a plan for him moving forward into his sophomore year. I think he would have definitely played a lot more this year; he was just scratching the surface of his potential and he had always been used to playing the post so we were trying to teach him the wing and perimeter spots of the court,” Coffey said.
Bamba averaged in his first year at Utica 2.2 ppg, shooting 66% from the field and 1.6 rebounds per game.
In the classroom, he was always making sure to do his best, as education came first for him. In his first year at Utica, Bamba had made Dean’s list both semesters. As a sports management major, he wanted to pursue a career in athletics after graduating.
“He always had manners, and would never talk back or get frustrated in practice with anyone. He had a good head on his shoulders on and off the court, such a nice young man overall. He fit into our locker room instantly, looking to learn and absorb as much as he could,” Coffey said.
We all must remember to not take life for granted and always live life with happiness, passion, and kindness as Chris Bamba did.