As college basketball enters the pinnacle of its season and the madness of March begins to ensue, fans and media alike commonly reminisce on tournaments of the past, memorable games and players both loved and hated. One of these players is Benny Anders, also appropriately known as the Outlaw, the eccentric swingman of the famed University of Houston Phi Slamma Jamma era. In this week’s issue, senior writer Jon Wertheim attempts to answer the annual question of what happened to Benny Anders?
On the court Anders embodied sheer athleticism with his ferocious dunks, however his playing style was riddled with overtly selfish and over the top behavior. So while players like Clyde Drexler and Akeem Olajuwon bloomed in the light of Houston’s basketball program and in the NBA thereafter, Anders was dismissed from the Houston basketball team following an altercation with another student that ended in Anders being arrested for possession of a firearm on school property.
Wertheim found that Anders then fell off the map after brief stints of professional basketball in South America and the Philippines.,. And despite being armed with Google and even a private investigator, Wertheim’s continual trail on Anders always seemed to run cold. No listed residential address, no criminal record, no connection to former teammates, nothing. A record showing a Benny Anders as employed in Flint, Michigan in the late 90’s seemed to be the only proof of his existence at all, and even that was riddled with holes.
After a disappointing trip through Anders hometown of Bernice, Arkansas, some brash words from a distant relative, and even more wasted research, Wertheim came across a mention of Anders and his family in an old newspaper. The brief article noted Anders and his “father” truly originating from Flint, Michigan. With several leads pointing towards Flint and a suspicious phone conversation with an unidentified woman nipping at his conscious, Wertheim headed to Flint with the hopes of ending the Benny Anders mystery. But after failing to receive any contact with the residence of the suspected Anders household and finding no confirmed sighting of the allusive character, Wertheim found himself coming to terms with the fact that no amount of journalistic skills or resources were going to help him solve this mystery. Some people just don’t want to be found, and that’s ok.
Other journalists and authors can keep on searching, but Wertheim considers the frozen in time portrait of Benny Anders dunking on Charles Jones of Louisville during a final four game to be the ideal way to remember him. Maybe it is better to let Benny Anders slip away into obscurity than taint his memory with the present.
“As it stands, Benny exists as a series of brazen quotes, a flash of pink cummerbund, and astounding dunks, one in a pivotal game—a fleeting vision of athletic perfection and personal cult,” explains Wertheim (PAGE 78).
Perennially loaded on offense, Houston finally has a dominant defense to match: a manic swat patrol that makes life miserable on quarterbacks. The best team in football? No doubt about it says SI writer Austin Murphy. The issue will be on stands Wednesday.