I was surprised to read this weekend that former Net and former lottery pick bust, Yinka Dare died of a heart attack at age 32. The heart attack was apparently due to an arrhythmia that Dare developed in college. I’m one of the few people who can say that I, as a Nets fan, saw Dare play as a pro on any sort of consistent basis.
Dare is somewhat of an emblem of the futility of the pre-Jason Kidd Nets. Dare left George Washington after his sophomore year against the better advice of his coach Mike Jarvis, scouts, and basically the whole world. The thought was that he needed more time to develop as a player. In hindsight, the nay sayers were wrong. Dare didn’t need time to develop, he just wasn’t a good basketball player. He wasn’t going to develop, he was what he was, which was a poor NBA player, with no skills. They nay sayers were also wrong about Dare’s decision to leave college early. He was miraculously drafted by the New Jersey Nets with the fourteenth pick overall (ahead of Eric Piatkowski, Aaron McKie, Wesley Person, and Charlie Ward).
So, Yinka got a big contract (remember there was no rookie wage scale back then). Back in 1994, the Nets were coming off a semi-successful run with Kenny Anderson and Derrick Coleman blossoming. All they needed was a shooting guard and a center to balance it out. The Nets could have taken Person for the shooter but instead gambled on Dare. This was not a great move. Dare NBA career was as bad as can be:
In his first year, 1994-95, Dare played in one game for three minutes. He threw up one shot an air ball, and then had season ending knee surgery. Dare came back in 1995-96 and the Nets were determined to try to squeeze some value out of their draft pick. Coach Butch Beard tried to start Dare but he lacked skills on both ends of the court. In 58 games and 626 minutes, Dare had zero assists, compared to 72 turnovers. This was such an oddball stat, writers speculated that Dare probably should’ve been able to at least get an assist by accident. But he couldn’t.
The worse thing that happenedto Dare, however, was the mid-season trade of Coleman for Shawn Bradley. Dare lost his starting job to Bradley and became the bench ornament that he was meant to be. At least in 1996-97, Dare was able to rack up three assists (in 41 games). Because he had a long term deal, the Nets had to bring back Dare in 1997-98. Dare played ten games and 60 minutes until he was traded to Orlando as part of a package for Rony Seikaly at the trade deadline. But Dare was traded as a salary slot and not as a player that Orlando wanted so they immediately cut him and Dare’s NBA career was over. He played in 110 career games and 1,002 minutes and ended up with a career total offour assists(!) and 96 turnovers.
So, what happened to Yinka after his being cut? Well, in the summer of 1998, Dare went to Greece to play with his native Nigeria in the World Championships. Dare plated three games averaging 8 ppg and 7 rpg on 29% shooting. After the World Championships, Dare’s career becomes a little hazy. He bounced around the CBA and the USBL. In 1999-00, Dare had a brief stint with Fort Wayne of the CBA before being released. He had the similar appearances with Idaho in 2000-01 and Saskatchewan in 2001-02. I could find no available stats for those cameos. Yinka also had a tryout with the NBDL in the last year. Dare’s last recorded professional appearance was in the USBL in the summer of 2003, playing briefly for Darryl Dawkins and the Pennsylvania Bull Dawgs, who released Dare after five games. He apparently was still looking to play after that. Last Saturday, Dare had just finished working out in his home in Northern New Jersey when he died of a heart attack.
Dare was never a good player and he was never meant to be either. He became something of a joke in New Jersey, a testament to Jersey’s bad choices during their lean years. But he the Nets because he was big and strong. You would’ve thought if Nets could’ve done a bit more due diligence on Dare it would’ve have been apparent that he couldn’t play in the CBA, let alone the NBA. Still, their loss was Dare’s gain. He squeezed four years and a nice contract out of the Nets. In the end, he had the last laugh. It would have been nice if had gotten the chance to laugh for a bit longer.