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Ben Wilson's killer: 'I don't consider myself a criminal'

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Ben Wilson's killer: 'I don't consider myself a criminal'

"I live with Ben everyday. Im sure until the day I die, Im going to live with Ben. I cant get away from that. Unfortunately, theres going to be people in society who arent going to let me get away from that." -- Billy Moore, the man who murdered Ben Wilson

Twenty-eight years ago today, two bullets ended the life of a Chicago basketball star and ruined the lives of many others.

Ben Wilson, a 6-foot-7 forward from Simeon High School, was considered the No. 1 high school player in the country.

Billy Moore was a 16-year-old teenager walking down Vincennes Ave. on Chicago's South Side with a gun.

It would become one of the darkest moments in the history of Chicago sports.

"It was an unfortunate situation," Moore said, in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. "It really didn't have to happen, but it did. I'm so sorry that it did."

How long should a man pay for his sins? Can someone ever be forgiven for killing another?

These are questions that have tormented Moore ever since he was released from prison in 2004. With every step he takes, he moves further away from the incident; but no matter how far he travels, Moore can't shake it.

His murder of Ben Wilson is always there in the rearview mirror.

"I asked Mrs. Wilson, Mr. Wilson and the Wilson family to forgive me. I've asked God to forgive me and I have forgiven myself," Moore said. "As you sit here with me today, I'm 44 years old. I'm not the 16-year-old person who committed that crime."

But almost three decades later, the result of Moore's crime is still being felt -- especially to those in the Wilson family -- like Ben's younger brother, Jeff -- who walks around with a deep wound in his heart.

"I lost my brother who was like a father to me," Jeff Wilson told Comcast SportsNet.
"You shot my brother, our brother. You ruined the lives of people waiting for him in college, the sports world, NBA, the whole city of Chicago."

"If you rob a man, you can replace what you have taken. If you beat a man up, his wounds will heal. But if you kill, there is no tomorrow for that man. There is no working anything out. That life is gone forever."-- Jeff Wilson on the loss of brother, Ben, 28 years agoBefore the shooting, Ben Wilson, at just 17 years old, was one of the most popular athletes in Chicago, comparable to Michael Jordan, an NBA rookie who was just starting his career with the Bulls.

Wilson was expected to follow in Jordans footsteps. But on that one afternoon, the dream ended.

He and Moore were strangers. They had a confrontation on a sidewalk just steps away from Simeon High School. Shots rang out. One life ended. Another one stopped dead in its tracks.

Moore was sentenced to 40 years in prison for murder and attempted armed robbery. He ended up serving 19 years, 9 months. His accomplice, Omar Dixon was given 30 years.

While Moore admits to killing Wilson, he maintains that he shot Wilson out of self-defense.

"Omar Dixon who went to prison with me had nothing to do with it. He was standing in the grass." Moore explained. "They said we tried to rob Ben. It was 12 oclock in the daytime, a half a block from a high school with people walking up and down the block in front of a busy store. I would think it would be stupid for me to pick the biggest person that I have ever seen in my life to try and rob him in broad daylight, but thats what I was charged with; attempted robbery and first-degree murder."

A criminal is defined as "a person charged with and convicted of a crime." That would make Moore a criminal in the past, present and future. But he doesnt see it that way.

"I dont consider myself a criminal," Moore declared.

But you did shoot him.

"I did shoot him," he said. "Growing up in Chicago, it's not right to be carrying a gun. I think a criminal is a person who pretty much survives on criminal instincts to live, to make a life, to victimize other people. This is the way he pretty much goes about his everyday life. I made a very stupid mistake at 16 by picking up a gun. This is the day that me and Ben met up and as a result, he lost his life and I went away for 20 years."

But to Jeff Wilson, who feels the permanent void of a brother he'll never get back -- the crime is eternal, the loss indefinite.

"If you rob a man, you can replace what you have taken. If you beat a man up, his wounds will heal," Wilson said. "But if you kill, there is no tomorrow for that man. There is no working anything out. That life is gone forever."

Moore hopes that one day the Wilson family will come to forgive him. Jeff Wilson says he is willing to forgive, but he cannot absolve Moore for the murder of his brother.

"I have forgiven my anger towards him and I hope that everyone who loved Benji would do the same," Wilson said.

The two have never spoken to each other but if given the chance, what would Billy Moore say to Ben's brother?

"I would say that I understand how you feel. There's no right for me to tell you that you should continue to hold onto that," he said. "The only thing I can tell you is that I didn't mean to do what happened. I didn't mean for Ben to die. If you could find it in your heart to forgive me, I would welcome that. But who am I to say how you should feel about this situation? That was their brother. That's family."

Today, Moore works as a security guard for the Chicago charter school system. His main job, ironically, is to make sure his students avoid danger at school and get home safely.

Before pulling out the gun that killed Ben Wilson, Moore says he didn't have anyone in his life telling him to avoid guns. He recalled the words of his grandfather who said, "If you show your gun, use it."

Now he is hoping to spread his anti-gun message to young people, specifically in Chicago, where there have been 461 homicides so far in 2012, a large majority of the victims being African-Americans.

"If I could be of any example, to help people who might be confronted with some situations that they don't know how to deal with it and think that carrying a gun is the best solution, I'm here to tell you right now, that it's the worst solution. That's no solution," said Moore.

Recently, Moore's young daughter saw some old footage of Ben Wilson playing basketball. She told her mother that she wanted to wear No. 25 on her jersey.

Ben Wilsons number.

"That's her decision," Moore said. "I wouldn't encourage her against it. If it inspired her to feel that way, then so be it."

What would have become of Ben Wilson? Well never know. All we're left with are the questions ... and the man responsible for his death, a person still haunted by his past as he tries to turn his life around.

"I suffered for 19 years and nine months, and I've had an opportunity to regain my freedom and resume my life. I know every day that Ben didn't."

ICYMI: Craig Kimbrel's next steps; White Sox reportedly promoting Zack Collins; Six thoughts on Olli Maatta

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ICYMI: Craig Kimbrel's next steps; White Sox reportedly promoting Zack Collins; Six thoughts on Olli Maatta

The Cubs mapped out the next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel, the White Sox are reportedly promoting Zack Collins from Triple-A and how does the Anthony Davis trade affect the Bulls? Here's what you may have missed from the weekend in Chicago sports:

Cubs

Craig Kimbrel will officially join Triple-A Iowa this week, the latest development in his buildup towards joining the Cubs' 25-man roster.

A small change in interactions with his teammates has paid huge dividends for Kyle Hendricks. However, Hendricks landed on the 10-day injured list Saturday due to shoulder inflammation.

The Cubs wrapped up another tough road trip, finishing 2-5 against the Rockies and Dodgers this week. They did pick up a huge victory on Saturday behind Yu Darvish, however.

Brandon Kintzler joined Kelly Crull on the latest Cubs Talk Podcast to discuss his ongoing prank war with Steve Cishek, his growing role as a leader and mentor inside the clubhouse and more.

White Sox

According to a report, the White Sox are promoting top catching prospect Zack Collins from Triple-A Charlotte, adding another piece to their rebuilding puzzle.

The Eloy Jimenez Show is headed to the North Side this week, as the first act of the Crosstown Classic commences at Wrigley Field. In Jimenez and Lucas Giolito, the faces of the White Sox franchise might just be emerging. Jimenez even got a rave review from Yankees All-Star Gleyber Torres.

Although the White Sox are on the rise, learning to win also means the team has to learn how to lose.

Yoan Moncada's ongoing back issues continued this weekend.

Blackhawks

The Blackhawks acquired defenseman Olli Maatta from the Penguins for forward Dominik Kahun. Here are six thoughts on the deal and what's next for the Blackhawks.

NBC Sports Chicago's Blackhawks beat writer Charlie Roumeliotis answers fan questions in the latest Blackhawks mailbag.

Roumeliotis discusses how Matthew Boldy and Kaapo Kakko would fit with the Blackhawks in his latest NHL Draft profiles.

Other

The Bulls weren't part of the Anthony Davis trade to the Lakers, but the deal could have an effect on the NBA Draft. And while the Bulls don't currently have salary cap space to sign a max player, here's how they can make room for one.

The Bears are on summer break for the next five weeks. Here's what they'll be up to.

How the Bulls can land a max-salary free agent

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How the Bulls can land a max-salary free agent

The Bulls will enter free agency with approximately $20 million in cap space. That’s far short of the amount needed to sign a max-salary player, but there is a path for the team to land a star — if one chooses to play in Chicago. With rumors out of Brooklyn that D’Angelo Russell would be on his way out if the Nets sign Kyrie Irving, coupled with the uncertain futures of both Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, Bulls fans are wondering “what if.” I’ll let much wiser people debate if the Bulls should extend an offer to any of these players; I’ll outline how it could happen.

In terms of this discussion, it’s very important to note that not all free agents are eligible for the same max salary. The league has three tiers of max free agents, broken up by years of service. Players with 0-6 years of service are in one tier, 7-9 years in another, and 10+ years of service in the last.

Players in the more experienced tiers can get a much larger contract over players coming off their rookie contracts. The wonderful Larry Coon explains this in detail in his CBA FAQ. The exact 2019-20 salary cap will be announced at the end of the month. It’s currently projected at $109 million, and for this scenario, we use that number. Essentially, tier 1 players can get 25 percent of the cap, tier 2 30 percent and players with 10+ years of experience can get 35 percent of a team’s cap.

Russell would fall into the 0-6 years tier, earning him a first year salary (the one that matters in terms of cap space) of approximately $27.2 million. Klay Thompson has eight seasons of experience and is eligible for a first-year salary of about $32.7 million. His teammate Kevin Durant can sign a max deal starting at $38 million.

Step 1- Get medical waiver on Omer Asik’s $3 million cap hit.

The Bulls will find out by June 30 if the league approves their waiver request on Asik. The former Bulls big has a $3 million cap hit of guaranteed money on the books for the 2019-20 season. The team waived Asik back in October and it looks like his NBA career may be over after dealing with arthritis and Crohn’s Disease. The NBA is likely to approve the Bulls request, and they’ll get that money back in cap space for free agency.

Step 2- Waive and stretch Cristiano Felicio

The league allows teams to waive players and stretch their contracts over several years to lessen the immediate cap hit a team takes. Felicio is owed approximately $15.7 million over the next two seasons. The stretch provision means teams can spread out the cap hit of a waived player twice the years remaining on the deal, plus one. This translates to a cap hit of approximately $3.1 million over the next fives years instead of the amount he’s owed. This means the Bulls would gain an additional $5 million in cap space this summer.

Accomplishing steps 1 and 2 will clear enough cap space for the Bulls to sign a 0-6 year free agent, so if Russell wants to play for the Bulls and the front office feels he’d be a good fit, it would only take these two steps to sign him. It gets more complicated for the more experienced free agents.

Step 3- Trade Kris Dunn for a 2nd round pick.

Dunn is owed $5.3 million for the 2019-20 season. Trading him for a second round pick would net the Bulls a cap saving of $4.4 million. The reason the Bulls don’t get to keep the full amount is that teams have to account for a roster spot against the cap when they go below 12 players. Trading Dunn would get them into the 7-9 years tier and allow them to sign Klay Thompson (or any of the other free agents at that tier).

Step 4A- Trade out of the first round of the 2019 draft

Here is where it gets a lot more difficult for the Bulls if they want to sign a 10+ year free agent. They have to clear about $5 million more in cap space. Let’s safely assume they aren’t going to trade Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen or Wendell Carter for pennies on the dollar just to clear cap space. Otto Porter’s contract makes him a very unlikely trade candidate as well. Trading the No. 7 pick for a future first nets them another $4.4 million, close enough to get to that max slot with other small moves.

The major flaw with this is the draft is June 20 and free agency starts 10 days later. You’re not going to get a commitment from any superstar worth this amount until June 30, so essentially this option is off the table.

Step 4B- Trade Denzel Valentine and Chandler Hutchison for second round picks

This option is a lot more likely if the Bulls can sign a superstar in the 10+ years tier. Hutchison showed promise in his rookie season, and despite missing all of last season, Valentine should be able to get you something (especially if packaged with Hutchison). I doubt the team wants to punt on Hutchison after one season, but they'd have to, if this was the only thing in the way of signing a franchise changing star.

If you want to dream for the Bulls, our friends at NBC Sports Boston put together a list of the top free agents available. The likelihood is that the Bulls will use their cap space to sign a few veteran free agents to give them some much needed depth, but should they dream big, there is a path to be in play for a star.

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