Family, teammates mourn loss of former Golden Bears point guard Greg Badger

Family, teammates mourn loss of former Golden Bears point guard Greg Badger

You wouldn't know about Greg Badger's struggles with his mental health if you watched him on the basketball court.

Badger, who's ranked third all-time in assists in University of Alberta Golden Bears history, was incredibly supportive of his teammates, family and friends.

But he also struggled with his mental health and addiction — so much so that it pushed him at 47 to take his own life on June 11.

Badger's brother, Geoff Badger, said his brother was good at everything he tried but couldn't shake the inner struggles he had.

"In some ways, my brother was the most incredible person," Badger told CBC's Radio Active. "He couldn't live up to the expectations that he had for himself."

Greg Badger was born and raised in Edmonton and found athletic success wherever he went. He led the Golden Bears to back-to-back national titles in 1994 and 1995 as the team's starting point guard.

At five-foot-10 and 140 pounds, he was usually the smallest player on the court. But what he lacked in size he made up for in heart, his brother said.

"He'd set picks for guys much bigger than him, just get run over," he said. "But he was prepared to do what it took for the team."

Don Horwood, who coached Badger for his five years with the team, remembered his unselfishness.

"Because of his intelligence, he usually made the correct decisions," Horwood said in a written statement.

"Several of his long-range shots will always be a part of Golden Bears folklore."

Badger was also a successful golfer. After he finished his basketball career and completed his degree in physical education, Badger worked at a prestigious golf course in Palm Springs where he caddied for celebrities like Bill Gates, his brother said.

It was there that Geoff Badger believes Greg's addictions started to surface. He was in and out of treatment centres over the next few years and ended up in Nanaimo, B.C., after finishing a program there.

He then opened up Funk Your Fashion, a consignment store in the area where he lived for 13 years until his death. Geoff Badger said the store was "like a tourist attraction."

The family had a celebration of life in Nanaimo Tuesday. Hundreds of people showed up to remember Badger as a successful businessman and community member.

But those closer to him knew the struggles he faced.

"People see the exterior, but underneath there was a raging battle going on," Geoff Badger said. "He couldn't see the light for himself. He provided for other people or he saw it in other people but he couldn't see it in himself."

Memorial fund

A second celebration of life for Badger was held Thursday afternoon in Edmonton.

Instead of flowers, the family asked people to donate to the Greg Badger Memorial Fund, in support of University of Alberta basketball athletes as well as mental health and addiction initiatives.

"Setting up a fund in his name was a way for his legacy to live on and his death not totally be in vain," Geoff Badger said.

Badger said it feels like society is still behind in helping those with mental health and addiction issues.

"It's crazy that something so predictable is completely unpreventable," he said.

This fund will be partially geared toward making sure what his brother went through would be more manageable for future generations.

The funds will also look to help out athletes who have the talent to play basketball but not necessarily the funding to do so. It's what Badger said his brother would have wanted.

"That was who Greg was; that's what he did," he said. "Greg was all about the underdog."

More information on the fund can be found here.