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Alphonso Gene Ford (October 31, 1971 – September 4, 2004) was an Americanmarker 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. Ford played professionally in both the NBA and the Euroleague, where he confirmed his tremendous scoring ability and became a reference in the matter.

Early years

Ford was a high school star player for Amanda Elzy High School in Greenwood, Mississippimarker. 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 Universitymarker. 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.

Pro career

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 the 1993-94 NBA season. During both the 1993-94 and 1994-95 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.

Europe

First steps towards European stardom
In the 1995-96 season, Ford signed with Spanish first division club SD 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, Greece's A1 Ethniki. 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 to whole season, but he was determined 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 on a two year deal with Peristeri, experiencing the game within a team with ambitions considerablyhigher than any of the ones he had played for in the past. Needless to say, the challenge was accepted by the person 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, scoring 20.7 ppg. in the 1999-00 Korac Cup. Peristeri reached 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 A1 Ethniki title and ended in the third position, while he was named the league's MVP. In parallel, they took part in ULEB's Euroleague and Ford shined for the first time at the highest European stage. He led the competition in scoring with 26 points per game and had a memorable 41 points outburst against Tau Ceramica in the top 16, making more than half of his team's 79 points that night. Tau qualified for the quarter finals sweeping the series two to none but Ford's performance is now part of the Euroleague legend. Finally, his nomination to the All-Euroleague 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 dollar 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, 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 from reaching the Final Four. Ford could actually not prevent a 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 leading scorer with 24.8 points per game and was selected to the All-Euroleague 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 Italian League's Euroleague contender Mens Sana Siena. The adaptation period was not long for this phenomenal player and although his numbers dropped to 17.9 points per game, he was selected to the All-Euroleague 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 had 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, losing 62-65 in a highly intense game. In the Italian League, Ford averaged 19.1 points per game and Siena finished fourth.

Requiem for a Great

Ford played the 2003-04 season in Scavolini Pesaro. Even though leukemia was in advanced stage, he was still as merciless with opponent defenses scoring 22.2 points per game. As a consequence, Scavolini reached a fourth place in the Italian League, synonym of Euroleague qualification, and was the Italian Cup's runner up. Nobody could believe that the inevitable was so close.

Diminished by a disease that probably cost him greatness early in his career, one of the greatest Euroleague scorers of all time died at the age of 32, less than two weeks after announcing his retirement from the Euroleague. He was survived by his daughter Quekenshia Aljernea Ford, his wife, Paula, and their sons Karlderek and Alphonso, Jr. In the year 2004, the Euroleague payed tribute to Ford by naming after him its leading scorer of the year award Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy. In the Euroleague 2004-05 season, the trophy was won for the first time ever by Charles Smith, the same player who had replaced Ford on his previous team, Scavolini Pesaro of the Italian League.

Team titles and personal accomplishments



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