It might just be an urban legend, but the theory that deaths come in threes – especially deaths of those we idolize – was borne out for New Mexico sports fans in recent weeks.
First, legendary University of New Mexico basketball player and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Mel Daniels. Then former world light heavyweight champion and International Boxing Hall of Famer Bob Foster. And finally, world-record-setting UNM sprinter and New Mexico Sports Hall of Famer Adolph Plummer.
Daniels, who was 71, played at UNM during the 1964-65 through 1966-67 seasons and later in both the ABA and NBA. Known as Mr. Basketball, he is considered the all-time best big man in program history, literally helping tip off the birth of the modern era of Lobo hoops.
Foster, who was 76, is considered one of the hardest punchers in the history of the sport, taking on the likes of heavier fighters including Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. His 1973 title defense at the Pit set a state attendance record for boxing that stood for 25 years. Despite his fame, he did his work as a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s officer with professionalism and humility.
Plummer, who was 77, became the NCAA champion at 440 yards in 1961, set a world record in the 440-yard dash as a Lobo in 1963 and was ranked No. 1 in the world at 220 yards in 1965. Journal columnist Rick Wright says he had “the power of a freight train, the grace of a ballroom dancer.”
All three men performed at the top of their sports. And they were gentlemen and positive role models. Their world-class achievements continue to inspire all athletes, especially those in New Mexico, to try to do the same.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.