|Disappeared||April 11, 1978|
|Missing for||43 years|
John Brisker was an American professional basketball player who was last heard of in Uganda on April 11, 1978. He was declared legally dead in 1985.
Early Life and Basketball Career
John Brisker was born on June 15, 1947 in Detroit, Michigan. He grew up in outside of Detroit with his mom, brother, and two sisters. "In Detroit," Brisker once said, "if you're tough enough, they name playgrounds after you." Before joining the Pittsburgh Pipers as a forward/guard for the 1969-1970 season in the American Basketball Association, he played for the Toledo Rockets, the basketball team for the University of Toledo. He then was a member of the Pittsburgh Condors between 1970 and 1972. After playing for the Condors, he joined the Seattle SuperSonics as part of the National Basketball Association and was a member until his departure with the NBA.
Brisker was a well-talented player. He averaged 20.7 points per game over the course of his career, with 26.1 points per game in the ABA and 11.9 points per game in the NBA. While in the ABA, he became an All-Star twice.
He also developed a reputation for his volatility. According to his Condors teammate Charlie Williams, "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." Because Brisker fought with other players and coaches and got ejected for it often, he was nicknamed "the heavyweight champion of the ABA" and the Condors media guide portrayed him wearing a pair of six-shooters in posters. One of the more notable incidents was when Brisker was ejected two minutes into a 1971 game against the Denver Rockets because he elbowed a rival team member, Art Becker. Brisker charged back onto court at least three times to go after Becker resulting in police threatening to arrest him to get him to return to the locker room. In another 1971 incident, he was arrested for fighting with police officers that resulted in two of them being sent to the hospital over a dispute with a cab outside of Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1973, he and another player, Joby Wright, got into a fight that result in Brisker breaking the latter's jaw and punching out four teeth.
Brisker was cut from the SuperSonics before the 1975-1976 season. The reason was for this was that he created "dissension", according to the team owner-at-the time, Sam Schulman.
During his basketball career, Brisker developed an interest on "going back to his roots" and in Africa. Teammates remembered that he borrowed books about Africa and sometimes wore Dashikis, clothing garment that is native to West Africa.
Between his departure of the NBA and when he disappeared, Brisker attempted several business ventures that failed. His wife Michele filed for divorce in 1977 and claimed he abused her to the point she is deaf in her left ear. He and his girlfriend also had a daughter on February 1978. His brother Ralph has not seen him since 1976 and his mother in 1975. His teammate and friend, Spencer Haywood, said Brisker visited him at his New York home sometime in 1976 or 1977. Haywood claimed Brisker recently returned from Africa and still held a grudge against his last basketball coach. He planned on returning to Africa, but Haywood tried to take Brisker's passport. Haywood thought Brisker was in "dark, shady places" and it was possible he showed his friend a picture of Idi Amin, who was the dictator of Uganda at the time. Before Brisker left, Haywood remembered telling him, "You don't need to go back over there. You don't sound too healthy. And there's some anger you need to deal with. It's not Russell. It's you."
According to King County court documents, Brisker traveled to Uganda to launch an "import-export business." He gave his girlfriend a phone call in Seattle on April 11, 1978 from Kampala, Uganda. There has been no contact from him as since then.
Since his disappearance, there have been speculations on Brisker's fate. A former teammate, Tom Burleson claimed, "He went to Uganda and it was as a mercenary and he was fighting over there. His wife went with him, and he was captured by Idi Amin's men. And Idi Amin had him prepared and they served him and his wife banquet style." Another teammate, Slick Watts, further stated, "They said he was sitting at a table with one of those kings over there, and they had an argument, and Brisker wouldn't relate to the argument or agree with it. In that country, you don't dishonor the king. And Brisker had one of those grrrrr moments, and they said the guy had his gun covered up like a turkey was in it. He moved it and pew. Shot him. That's the legend anyway."
Other versions have stated the Ugandan dictator invited Brisker because he was a enthusiastic basketball fan. However, when Amin's regime was overthrown and Amin exiled in 1979, Brisker was executed by firing squad by the rebels and his body is somewhere in the jungles of Uganda. Still others state Brisker survived and is living quietly. Watts states, "I always think of him somewhere, kicking back and saying, 'I ain't dead,' ".
None of the theories could be verified by the FBI or the United States State Department.
The King County Medical Examiner of King County, Washington officially declared Brisker dead in May 1985 for the purpose of settling his estate. He left behind two young daughters, his house in Redmond, Washington and $29,000 in his bank account.