“They’ve confirmed it’s him.”
I was at home in Oklahoma City relaxing in my man-cave with my two-year-old son. We’d just sat down on the couch and started playing when I got the call.
My phone is always on silent. But for some reason, I just so happened to look down and saw my homie trying to FaceTime me.
I picked up, and all he said was, “You heard?”
I said, “Heard what?”
“They say your brother got shot. They say he’s laying out there in the street.”
I hung up and called my dad. I didn’t know what to say. So I said the same thing my friend said to me.
He said, “Heard what?”
“They said Zique got shot.”
My dad just snapped. He was screaming. He hung up the phone to call somebody else to try to find out if it was really him.
I didn’t believe it.
I called my homie back, and I’ll never forget what he said. I’ll never forget it.
“They’ve confirmed it’s him.”
My son had never seen me cry before. He was still playing with his toys. He didn’t understand what was happening.
He said, “Daddy, why you crying?”
How am I gonna explain what happened to a two-year-old?
How am I gonna explain to him that his uncle is gone and he will never see him again?
Death feels so familiar to me. By the time I was 16, I had lost three cousins and my best friend, Rhamik.
It makes me sick.
Now my brother was laying dead in the street, and all the same feelings and thoughts came rushing back.
My mind started racing.
My first thought was, Damn, it’s a warm day. There’s always problems the first warm day of the year in Philly. There were six killings in the city on the day my brother died. Six.
I remember reading the headlines on my phone that night, and all of them said the same thing.
DION WAITERS’ BROTHER KILLED IN SHOOTING.
Dion Waiters’ brother.
His name is Demetrius Pinckney
He wasn’t just my brother. He was his own person. He had his own name.
The truth is, you shouldn’t even know my name right now.
When I was eight years old, I was walking across the park with my mom in South Philly when I heard, Pop-pop-pop-pop! There was a shootout between some kids and we got caught in the middle of the playground. Bullets were flying by my head. I’m talking literally right by my head. The shooter was running right at us.
We hit the ground until it stopped. If I was a few inches taller, I could’ve lost my life right there. You wouldn’t know the name Dion Waiters.
You should know the name Demetrius Pinckney. This is what I want you to remember about his life: We called him Zique. He loved to dance. He was always smiling and making the best out of life. I watched Zique grow up from being a goofy-ass little kid, always crying. He was the biggest mama’s boy in the neighborhood.
When I think about him, I just think about having fun. He was just a funny person to be around, but the one thing he loved was riding dirt bikes. That’s the thing for these kids now. It’s like the new rap music, especially in Philly. These kids love bikes. It’s a culture that a lot of people don’t know about.
In the summer, when I was back in Philly, we would kick it every day. I was trying to show him another way. I kept telling him, “Stay off the bike. Don’t be riding it where you know you shouldn’t be.”
We have this expression.
Stay out the way.
It just means: chill. Don’t put yourself in a bad situation. Stay out the way.
That’s the thing that I keep replaying in my head over and over. If I was home, I know it would’ve never happened. He wouldn’t have been on that bike on that block. He would’ve been with me. We would’ve been chillin’, eating some food, watching some TV at the crib. Staying out the way.
It plays on my conscience every day.
If. If. If.
If I was home, Zique would have been with me.
If he would have been with me, he would still be here right now.
Last time I was with him was All-Star weekend. I came home to Philly and all my boys were with me. We were at my apartment downtown, kickin’ it. We had the chef come to the crib. We had the salmon and rice. Macaroni. Greens. We had platters lined up. We watched the dunk contest together. We played some Madden. It was the dream, man.
Before I left, I told him — I specifically told him. My last words to him were, “I love you. I love y’all. Stay out the way. Stay off the bike.”
I felt like I was this close to reaching him.
It still hasn’t sunk in yet that my bro is really gone. Every day, I reach down to my phone to text him … and then it hits me.
Ten days after Zique’s death, I was back in Philly with my team. We were playing the 76ers. I came out the tunnel at the end of the game, like I always do. My family was waiting for me in the stands, like they always do. But my bro was missing. It didn’t feel real.
I don’t ask why. I just try to remember who Zique really was, and keep him alive. The best way I can honor him now is to be the best father, best teammate, and best person I possibly can.
He always texted me the same thing before every one of my games. “Turn up.”
You know I will, bro.
I miss you. Rest in peace.