In happier times, Christopher Reed Jr. got a chance to play at New York City’s Rucker Park. Reed is second from the right, twirling a ball on his finger. (Courtesy photo)

With Labor Day weekend behind him, Stephond Allmond was sleeping that Tuesday morning, preparing for work like any other day. Meanwhile, Dorsey Sims III was casually watching TV in the morning as he prepared to cut his grass.

Soon, the morning of Sept. 4, 2018 would change drastically for them both.

When Allmond woke up, he had 11 missed calls – eight from his mom, two from his brother and one from an older cousin. And at 6:31a.m., Sims received a call from the mother of Christopher Reed Jr.

“Coach,” she said, “I just wanted you to know that my baby was shot and killed.”

Unsure of what he heard, Sims quickly went outside after asking Reed’s mother to repeat herself.

“My knees buckled,” Sims said. “He was a very articulate young man.”

When Allmond— a first-cousin of Reed—checked his phone, he quickly called his mother back, and she shared with him the same news.

“When she told me, I didn’t feel anything,” Allmond said. “Everything went blank. I tried to wrap my head around why this would happen, and nothing made sense at all.”

Christopher Reed Jr. was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting while at a friend’s house in South Memphis on Farrington St. The shooting happened 10 days after his 18th birthday. The Memphis Police Department is still investigating, and no arrests have been made.

A talented basketball player, Reed was preparing to attend Lemoyne-Owen College. But it was his journey to get there that will leave a lasting impact on those who knew him.

Wounded, but a warrior

Reed’s death has impacted many in the Memphis community because he was yet another young person lost to gun violence. But it was not his first time being at the wrong end of a gun barrel.

Barely a year before his death, Reed was shot in an incident that resulted in the removal of his spleen, Allmond said. Doubts about his basketball career began to creep into his mind. Even after being cleared by doctors, Reed was initially scared to push himself on the court.

But that changed.

Reed attended Manassas High School, and put together an extremely productive year on the court as a senior — all after surviving a shooting roughly three months before the season.

“Not only did he play ball, but he thrived,” Allmond said. “For him to do that, that’s big time maturity.”

Sims agreed.

“He had a strong will, and a stronger desire than most,” Sims added. “Not only did he make a comeback, but he continued to grind.”

Christopher Reed Jr. and teammates during a visit to the office of Congressman Steve Cohen. (Courtesy photo)

In fact, Sims appreciated the grind so much that he selected Reed to play on a summer traveling team designed to help him gain college exposure. The trip included stops at 14 colleges and a visit to Washington D.C. where they met Congressman Steve Cohen. The group also got to play at Harlem’s legendary streetball mecca, Rucker Park.

This wasn’t a normal opportunity for Reed. He mostly grew up in tough neighborhoods in North and South Memphis. Besides a few trips to Johnson City with cousins and smaller trips here and there, he had never had an opportunity like this.

“Growing up, it wasn’t ever easy,” Allmond said. “We didn’t understand we were living in poverty.”

Close to Mom, Close to Home

Other than being identified as “Mrs. Reed,” members of the family would not disclose the full name of Christopher Reed’s mother. She was also unavailable to be interviewed for this story.

But Sims recalled the pride and excitement Reed’s mother had as she signed the waiver for him to go on the trip – one of several memorable moments from the excursion. Another was when Reed and his teammates visited Coney Island in New York City. Sims said he will carry the smiles and joy of the trip with him forever.

“When he was on that trip, it was hard for him to enjoy it because he wanted his mom to be there,” Allmond said. “She constantly missed him too.”

Before the trip, Reed was undecided on attending college. Part of it was he didn’t want to leave his mother. But he was also worried about previous heart problems he had dealt with before. Allmond said he received a text from Reed that he wanted to go to college but was unsure his heart could handle college hoops.

Meanwhile, the trip did what it was designed to do. Upon returning to Memphis, Reed began to field offers and interest from several colleges – among them Fisk University, UT-Chattanooga and Monroe College in New York. But Reed was so sold on staying home that he passed up an opportunity to play at Lane College with one of his close friends.

Ultimately, Reed chose Lemoyne-Owen – close to home, close to mom. That was in late August.

About a week later, Reed was dead.

Family Ties

Reed’s death ended a potentially promising career on the basketball court, Sims said.

“The kid can do things with a basketball a lot of people can’t do,” Sims said, slipping back into present tense. “I think he was a very special young man. I felt like he was one of the ones that was going to do something special.”

Reed was the youngest male of seven cousins. He often was quiet unless he was spoken to at family gatherings, but he always spoke with clarity, and took notice of his older cousins, Allmond said.

Born into an athletic family background, Reed often honored his cousins with his jersey numbers.

“Four or five years after I finished playing, he was wearing the same number – looking just like me playing running back,” Allmond said. “You never know someone is watching you that close until something like that happens.”

Often, the youngest member of the family tends to get harassed a little more, but as Reed got older, that wasn’t the case. Besides the typical tease, and everyone pushing him to play basketball because of his height, he wasn’t treated differently.

“We had to become adults early in our lives,” Allmond said.  “Chris was very mature for his age.”

‘You never know if the next bullet is meant for you’

Reed’s tragic death is among the latest in a city that struggles with gun violence.

“Here in Memphis, you never know if the next bullet is meant for you.. you just never know,” Sims said.

The family and Sims hope to use their own pain to help bring awareness to the issue.  Allmond and his brother have often used the acronym ‘CLO’ – which stands for ‘Chris lives on.’ 

“We want to make sure his story is heard to inspire student-athletes and young men,” Allmond said.  “To any of the families that have lost a loved one to gun violence, we want to establish a memory in his name.”

Reed will be honored in New York with a ceremony when Sims takes his group next year. Among those who want to pay respect is Rucker Park legend Bob McCollough and Bobby “Bingo” Smith, a Melrose High School alum who played in the NBA for 11 seasons.

That event next year, along with many other things that the family are planing to do will ensure one thing: Chris Lives On.

“Death is one thing,” Sims said. “But to make an impression on people to make them want to honor you is special.”

To help the Reed family with burial costs, make donations payable to: Bank of America C/O Christopher Reed, Jr. 444021318094. To make a tax-deductible gift, send your donation to The Y.E.S. Foundation, P.O. BOX 2143, Memphis, TN 38101.