October 31, 1971|
|Died||September 4, 2004
|Listed height||6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)|
|Listed weight||190 lb (86 kg)|
|High school||Amanda Elzy
|College||Mississippi Valley State (1989–1993)|
|NBA draft||1993 / Round: 2 / Pick: 32nd overall|
|Selected by the Philadelphia 76ers|
|1995–1996||Grupo AGB Huesca|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
Alphonso Gene Ford (October 31, 1971 – September 4, 2004) was an American professional basketball player. A 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in) tall shooting guard, he was one of the greatest scorers in college basketball history. After a short stint in the NBA, he played professionally in Europe.
Ford confirmed his tremendous scoring ability in the EuroLeague and became a reference in the matter, notwithstanding his chronic health issues. He was the Euroleague Top Scorer twice (2001, 2002), and earned an All-Euroleague selection three times. The competition's leading scorer award bears his name in his honor.
Ford was a high school star player for Amanda Elzy High School in Greenwood, Mississippi. Upon entering college basketball at Mississippi Valley State University, Ford led the entire NCAA in freshman scoring during the 1989-90 season with a 29.9 points per game average. In his sophomore year, he averaged 32.9 points per game, second only to Bo Kimble of Loyola Marymount University. He became the first player in NCAA history to average 25 points per game in four straight seasons. His 3,165 career points scored in the NCAA are 4th on the all-time scoring list behind only Pete Maravich, Freeman Williams and Lionel Simmons.
NBA and CBA
Ford played just 5 games in the 1994–95 NBA season for the Philadelphia 76ers, who selected him 32nd overall in the 1993 NBA Draft. Before that, he had played six games for the Seattle SuperSonics in 1993–94. During both the 1993–94 and 1994–95 NBA seasons, Ford played in the Continental Basketball Association for the Tri-City Chinook. He averaged 22.8 points per game in his rookie year and demonstrated right away the fact that he was an extraordinary scorer. His performances earned him every possible honor, as he was selected to the CBA All League Team, named Rookie of the Year and played the CBA All-Star Game. The 1994–95 CBA season was not very much different with Ford scoring 24 points per game and playing the All-Star Game once again.
First steps towards European stardom
In the 1995–96 season, Ford signed with Spanish first division club Peñas Huesca. However, although he played great basketball and averaged 25.1 points per game, he could not prevent the team's relegation. The next season was for Ford the opportunity to show his skills in what was at the time Europe's most competitive domestic league, the Greek Basket League. He spent the season with Papagou and not only led the team to a historical seventh position, but also was the competition's leading scorer with 24.6 points per contest. Nevertheless, glory at the European level turned out to be a little bit more far away than the great scorer thought. Before the beginning of the 1997–98 season, he was diagnosed with leukemia, thus obliging Papagou to break his contract. The treatment cost Ford the whole season, but he was convinced that he had a lot more to contribute. He signed a one-year deal with Sporting Athens, a traditional Greek club that was struggling to remain in Greece's top basketball scene. The gifted shooting guard helped the team finish in a decent eleventh position, but most importantly he defied his disease in an utterly remarkable way.
Ford agreed to a two-year deal with Peristeri before the 1999–2000 season, experiencing the game within a team with ambitions considerably higher than any of the ones he had played for in the past. Needless to say, the challenge was accepted by the player who would become a reference in the club's history. Ford averaged 22.2 points per game, leading Peristeri to a fifth position in the Greek league. Also, he made his first appearance in a European competition, the 1999–00 Korać Cup, scoring 20.7 points per game and reaching the top 16, before falling to Estudiantes Madrid.
The biggest scorer in Euroleague's modern era
The real breakout season for Ford though was going to be his second one for Peristeri in 2000–01. The team contented for the Greek Basket League title and ended in the third position, while he was named the league's MVP. In parallel, they took part in Euroleague Basketball's Euroleague and Ford shined for the first time at the highest European stage. He was the Euroleague Top Scorer, averaging 26 points per game and had a memorable 41-point outburst against Tau Ceramica in the top 16, scoring more than half of his team's 79 points that night. Tau qualified for the quarterfinals sweeping the series two to none but Ford's performance is now part of the EuroLeague legend. Finally, his nomination to the All-Euroleague 2000-01 First Team, was at the same time a huge recognition and an official introduction to superstar status.
In the 2001–02 season, European powerhouse Olympiacos offered Ford a $1 million net income single-year contract. His mission was to bring a squad that had not won anything since the treble in 1997 back to the top. Ford signed the deal and the results were immediate: he led the Reds to a Greek Cup trophy by having 20 points, 7 assists and 3 rebounds in the semifinal against Bodiroga's Panathinaikos and 24 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists in the final game to defeat Maroussi 66–74. In the Euroleague, Olympiacos made it to the Top 16 and fell one game short of reaching the Euroleague Final Four. Ford could actually not prevent an 85-89 home loss to outsider Olimpija Ljubljana, although he had a solid performance that night with 21 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. He still was once again the Euroleague's Top Scorer, at 24.8 points per game, and was selected to the All-Euroleague 2001-02 Second Team. The season ended with a loss in the Greek championship finals series to AEK, with Ford missing the last two crucial games due to an injury.
The Euroleague showed a new face in the 2002–03 season. Indeed, the major Greek clubs were forced to reduce their budgets due to the renovation of their arenas for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. They became therefore considerably less competitive. Ford's contract with Olympiacos consequently was not renewed and he signed a new one with the Italian league's Euroleague contender Mens Sana Siena. The adaptation period was not long for the phenomenal player, and although his numbers dropped to 17.9 points per game, he was selected to the All-Euroleague 2002-03 First Team, after Siena qualified for the Final Four. Unfortunately, Ford had one of his worst shooting nights ever in the semifinal against Benetton Treviso: he scored 15 points, making only 5 of his 19 shots. His 7 rebounds and 2 steals did not allow his team to overcome Benetton's obstacle, as they lost 62–65 in a highly intense game. In the Italian League, Ford averaged 19.1 points per game, and Siena finished fourth.
Final season and death
Despite his leukemia being in an advanced stage, Ford played the 2003-04 season with Scavolini Pesaro. Averaging 22.2 points per game, Ford, in his final season, helped Scavolini finish in fourth place in the Italian League, which meant the team qualified to the next season's EuroLeague, and to the Italian Cup's runner-up position, despite being near death. That accomplishment still speaks for itself today.
Shortly after announcing his retirement from Euroleague Basketball, Ford died from leukemia, at age 32. He is survived by his wife Paula, their daughter Quekenshia, and their sons Karlderek and Alphonso, Jr. And also his oldest son Cortez Freeman. In Ford's honor, the Euroleague named its trophy for the leading scorer of the year, the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy. The player who replaced Ford on Scavolini Pesaro, following his death, Charles Smith, would win the award the very next season.
Team titles and personal accomplishments
- Played the 1994 and 1995 CBA All-Star Game
- Played the 1996, 2000, and 2002 Greek All-Star Game
- 4x Greek League Top Scorer 1997 (24.6 ppg), 1999 (22.3 ppg), 2000 (22.2 ppg), 2001 (23.7 ppg)
- 2x All-Euroleague First Team 2001, 2003
- 2x Euroleague Top Scorer 2001 (26.0 ppg), 2002 (24.8 ppg)
- Greek League MVP 2001
- All-Euroleague Second Team 2002
- Won the 2002 Greek Cup with Olympiacos Piraeus
- Greek Cup MVP 2002