A star taken too soon: James Hampton


Courtesy of BigShotsNation/Twitter

Noam Jacobovitz

James Hampton passed away Saturday evening after collapsing in the middle of a Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) tournament game in Hampton, Virginia, at just 19 years old. Before collapsing, Hampton uttered the words, “Hey ref,” Team United Director Jacoby Davis told The Charlotte Observer.

Hampton, nicknamed “Jamo,” grew up in Washington, DC, and last year transferred to Liberty Heights Athletic Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina, reclassifying to the class of 2019. Hampton led the DCIAA in scoring his freshman year at Bell Multicultural High School, averaging 22.4 points per game. He then transferred to Coolidge High School his sophomore year.

I met Hampton the following spring. For a brief period during which he was considering transferring to Wilson, Hampton spent many hours working out in the school’s weight room and, at the same time I worked out with the basketball team. Hampton was one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, but he would always be able to grind while having fun, never sacrificing hard work for the sake of fun. He was extremely competitive, which eventually landed him an NCAA Division I offer from Hampton University. He was always friendly and willing to talk. It was truly a privilege to get to know him. Hampton ended up transferring to H.D. Woodson High School but became ineligible to play basketball his junior year.

Hampton decided to transfer again to continue his recruitment, taking him out of DC to Charlotte, North Carolina at Liberty Heights Athletic Institute. Hampton ran with Team United in the Nike EYBL this spring. On Saturday night, Arize Ifejika, founder and CEO of More Than Basketball, an organization that runs basketball events around the area, tweeted, “I remembered hearing about a couple other instances where he passed out… One of our last convos was me asking him why he continues to play his response was ‘Without basketball imma be dead or in jail like my men so I’d rather die on the court trying to be something in life,’ [sic].”

Hampton’s tragic death sent shockwaves throughout the basketball world. Former stars Scottie Pippen and Kobe Bryant joined current competitors Dwyane Wade and Jamal Crawford among others in expressing their condolences. Although taken way too soon, Hampton was able to touch many people’s lives, and his legacy of hard work and dedication will not be forgotten.

The cause of death has not yet been determined.