Nigel Hayes No. 10 of the Wisconsin Badgers, looks on after scoring against the Northwestern Wildcats during the second half in the semifinals of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Verizon Center on March 11, 2017 in Washington, D.C. | Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Sure, you can hoop, but NBA wants to know how you’d like to die

SHARE Sure, you can hoop, but NBA wants to know how you’d like to die
SHARE Sure, you can hoop, but NBA wants to know how you’d like to die

I was watching television coverage of the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last weekend, a decision I can neither explain nor defend, when I heard something that stirred me to pay closer attention.

Nigel Hayes, a prospect from the University of Wisconsin, was telling his former Badgers teammate Frank Kaminsky the most unusual question he had been asked during the psychological screening interviews conducted by team representatives.

Now, I didn’t get this on tape, but the gist of the question was: “If you had a choice, how would you prefer to die?”



That would sure make a person sit up straight in a job interview and think carefully before answering.

At least it would me.

I don’t even know what the right answer is, or whether the preferred answer is the same for somebody drafting NBA forwards as it is for somebody hiring reporters.

Hayes seemed to handle the question as well as could be expected, offering up something like: “Peacefully, in my sleep.”

That seems to be the safest answer. I’m just not 100 percent sure it’s my answer.

It’s not like I’ve never considered the question, although to be clear, I’m healthy as far as I know and not planning to go away soon.

It also has nothing to do with me getting old. Well, maybe a little. Both my father and his father died within six years of my current age.

I assume everyone has considered their own death at some point, which is why I am writing this.

The first time I can remember truly contemplating death is while saying my bedtime prayers as a young child.

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake . . .”

Before I wake!

What kind of a heavy trip is that to lay on a kid when they’re trying to get to sleep?

Mom, you mean you’re saying I might not be here in the morning?

Sure, I’ve come to understand that tomorrow is promised to no man, but when you’re 5 years old, what’s the harm in everybody playing along?

I’m completely in support of Nigel Hayes’ preference for dying peacefully. My question is whether I’d really want to die in my sleep.

The problem with dying in one’s sleep, I’ve always thought, is that you don’t know it’s coming, which I realize is the very reason that others would find it preferable.

But for me, I think I’d want at least that momentary realization, “OK, this is it,” so that I could say goodbye, if only in my thoughts.

Is this too morbid a subject before you’ve had your Cheerios?

Probably. And for those of you who have had occasion to contemplate this question for reasons other than theoretical, I apologize in advance.

I realize I’m fortunate in that I’ve never had any particular reason to think death could be imminent. Relatively good health, safe job and lifestyle.

Still, I put the question to my Facebook friends with a warning they might find their answers in the newspaper.

Most of them answered the same as Hayes, with some variation on peacefully, in their sleep.

But others had more specific ideas.

“With my cat on my lap, watching the White Sox win the World Series,” said Eileen Briesch, my former co-worker at The Northern Star at NIU.

“Dancing,” said Linda Lerner.

“Massive heart failure as I woke up one morning, or at a demonstration,” said Alan Mills, executive director of the Uptown People’s Law Center.

“That old joke comes to mind about being shot by a jealous husband when I’m 90,” said Steve Metsch.

“I want to die laughing!” said Paul Jasinevicius.

“Playing basketball at 101,” said Patrick Reardon.

Maybe that’s the right answer for the NBA. If only he could dunk.

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