Former Phoenix Suns player Johnny High was killed early...

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Former Phoenix Suns player Johnny High was killed early Saturday when his car struck a traffic-light pole at an east Phoenix intersection.

High, 30, was pronounced dead at Maricopa Medical Center at 3:30 a.m., 80 minutes after the accident, police spokesman Brad Thiss said.


High testified earlier this year before a Maricopa County grand jury which indicted five current and former Suns players and six other people on cocaine and drug charges. No charges were filed against High.

Thiss said High was alone in his 1979 sports car, driving east on Jefferson Street in the right-turn-only lane when the car crossed the intersection of 20th Street and struck a light pole on the southeast corner.

'He appeared to have suffered severe chest injuries,' Thiss said. 'Nobody witnessed the accident. A neighbor heard the crash and discovered it.'

Alcohol was found in the car, Thiss said, but he said tests had not been completed to determine whether High had been drinking.

Suns General Manager Jerry Colangelo, who drafted High out of Nevada-Reno in the second round of the 1979 NBA draft, called High 'a man who appeared to reach the pinnacle for a short period of time,' but said he had been plagued by personal problems later.


Transcripts of the grand jury testimony in the cocaine probe showed High implicated current or former players on NBA teams from Boston, Seattle, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Phoenix as users of cocaine -- among them Boston Celtics guard Dennis Johnson.

Johnson vehemently denied High's allegations, and High, in a subsequent television interview, denied having said Johnson had used cocaine.

The 6-foot-3 High, known for his defense and hard-nosed play, averaged 5 points a game his first season, 1979-80, and 8.4 points in 1980-81.

Phoenix traded High to the Chicago Bulls in Octiber 1981 for a third-round draft choice. He failed to make the Chicago team and played industrial league basketball in the 1981-82 season before the Suns signed him again as a free agent in July 1982.

High appeared in all 82 games of the 82-83 season and averaged 3.2 points.

Phoenix waived High in December 1983, but he returned in January 1984 when he was signed to two 10-day contracts. His career ended Feb. 1, 1984, when he was waived a final time.

High had been working as a shoe salesman in Phoenix.

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