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The mysterious death of NBA star who travelled to Uganda

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John Brisker
The mysterious death of NBA star who travelled to Uganda. Photo/ Front Page Detectives.
  • The death of John Brisker remains a mystery to date. 
  • Brisker had been out of the NBA for three years when he travelled to Uganda in 1978. 
  • The last time Brisker was heard alive was on April 11, 1978, when he called his girlfriend. 

The death of John Brisker, a talented and volatile forward, who travelled to Africa with the intention of launching an “import-export business” remains a mystery to date. 

John Brisker was an American professional basketball player who played for the Pittsburgh Pipers/Condors, Seattle Supersonics and Cherry Hill Rookies. Brisker played in the American Basketball Association, National Basketball Association and the Eastern Basketball Association.

John Brisker

John Brisker. Photo/ YouTube.

Brisker had been out of the NBA for three years when he travelled to Uganda. He had a girlfriend and a daughter and sought stability after a string of failed ventures. The last time Brisker was heard alive was on April 11, 1978, when he called his girlfriend. 

The two-time ABA All-Star was declared dead on May 29, 1985, so as to settle his estate. The final movements of John Brisker are unknown to date and his death is doubted by the State Department. Before looking at his mysterious disappearance and death, let’s first go through his career.


John Brisker was born on June 15, 1947, in Detroit, Michigan. He played college basketball for the Toledo Rockets basketball team of the University of Toledo.

He would soon join the ABA and sign a contract with the Pittsburgh Pipers. When the ABA changed its name, John remained with the Pittsburgh until 1972 when he joined the Seattle SuperSonics. 

During his days as a basketball player, he averaged 20.7 points per game (26.1 points per game in the ABA and 11.9 points per game in the NBA). He was one of the most volatile players in basketball and is a two-time ABA All-Star (1971, 1972), All-ABA Second Team (1971) and ABA All-Rookie First Team (1970). 

Stories surrounding John Brisker’s career are just legendary. According to Sportsnet, John Brisker used to take a gun courtside in his gym bag. His former teammate Charlie Williams said that John was an excellent player, but he was willing to kill when annoyed. 

“He was an excellent player, but say something wrong to the guy and you had this feeling he would reach into his bag, take out a gun and shoot you.” Charlie Williams said, as per John Brisker’s Wikipedia

John developed a reputation for being a badass as he didn’t tolerate anyone during his playing days. Those who got on his way learnt that it was a lot better walking off than standing their ground. He tore up the ABA with the Pittsburgh Condors in the early ’70s, inciting street fights.

He was ejected several times because of fighting thereby earning the nickname “the heavyweight champion of the ABA”. During a match against the Denver Rockets in 1971, John was ejected from the court two minutes into the game for an elbow on Art Becker. 

John charged back onto the court three times after being ejected with the intention of attacking Art Becker. It took time before police officers persuaded him to return to the locker room and calm down. 

Disappearance And Death Of John Brisker

The death of John Brisker is one of the unsolved mysteries in the sporting world. It is unknown what happened to him and some argue that he is not dead. 

According to King County court, John travelled to Africa in March 1978 to launch an “import-export” business. However, the State Department could not confirm that John travelled to Africa. 

For years, rumours have been surrounding the disappearance of John, and some say he disappeared because he was running from the Feds while some say he was running from the mob.

John went to work as a mercenary, he fell in with some shady Liberian gifters, he fell in with Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and even coached the Ugandan national basketball team, he got on the wrong side of Idi Amin, and he was killed. Those are just some of the stories surrounding John Brisker’s disappearance and unsolved death.

John Brisker

John Brisker death. Photo/ Front Page Detectives.

The former basketball player exists today as a memory, a lost talent who could have been an icon in the NBA. 

“Often in the quiet moments of my life, when I think about my teammates, I think about him (John). I wonder, ‘is John really dead?'” The Seattle Times quotes John Brisker’s former teammate Slick Watts. 

Abraham Odhiambo is an avid sports fan who loves to write about football, boxing and wrestling. He's a big supporter of Manchester United. He's pursuing a bachelor's degree in Communication and Media at Egerton University.

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