Estaban Weaver: From phenom to bust to hoops hall of famer

Chris Gaitten
Estaban Weaver, right, talks with James Lang, left, as they clean and repair Weaver's basketball trophies and awards in 2006.

To those who remember his prowess on the courts, Estaban Weaver was arguably the most talented basketball player in Columbus history. The comparisons are inevitable and endless—more skilled than Kobe Bryant at the same age, better than anyone since Michael Jordan, as gifted as LeBron before he became King James. Weaver got more hype than any of them at a younger age, holding a press conference as an eighth grader to announce his high school choice: Bishop Hartley. He was ranked No. 1 nationwide in his class as a freshman.

But like many other stars of the basketball camps, playgrounds and amateur leagues, things didn’t work out as planned for Weaver. He switched high schools twice, eventually landing at Independence for his senior year in 1997, and he had stints at Tallahassee Community College and Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. There were spats with coaches, academic problems, drug dealers in his entourage, a failed drug test and constant attention and media scrutiny. By the time he left Central State in 2000, Division I colleges and the NBA were no longer calling. Over the years, he played for the semi-pro International Basketball League and in the Worthington Summer League, but his greatness mostly lived on through word-of-mouth stories from his peers and local hoops fans.

Despite his circuitous path through high school, Weaver still racked up plenty of accolades and achievements. He was named a Parade All-American, first-team all-state and runner-up as Mr. Basketball in Ohio, as well as leading Hartley to the state semifinals. Now, two decades after his star peaked, he’s getting formal recognition for his career and considerable talent—on Saturday, Aug. 26, he will be inducted into the Greater Columbus Basketball Legends Association Hall of Fame.

“I would have never thought that people would have respected me enough and assumed that I put in enough work to where people acknowledged what I did and appreciated it,” Weaver says. “I’m just blown away by it.” It’s validation, he says, and he teared up when he got the call from GCBLA’s co-founder Edward “Skip” Young.

Weaver pulls down a rebound in a game against Walnut Ridge while playing at Independence in 1997. 
-Photo by Mike Munden

Weaver, who recently turned 40, is the first male athlete who played after 1977 to be inducted into GCBLA’s Hall of Fame (three female players from 1982-2003 have earned the honor), though he’s the second from his family—his uncle Dwight “Bo” Lamar was welcomed in 2014 for a career that included a season playing with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the Los Angeles Lakers. This year’s Hall of Fame class of 12 former players and coaches will be GCBLA’s fourth, and the event begins at 6 p.m. Saturday at the DoubleTree hotel in Worthington.

Weaver still loves basketball; he just helped take his 35-and-over “old-timers” team to the league final four at Glenwood Rec Center, he says, and he plays for a traveling team that begins in September. In March 2016, a pair of local filmmakers released a documentary called “Who Is Estaban,” which covers his superior skills and tumultuous life. Homage backed the making of the film, and the T-shirt company’s website hosts a censored version. Go to YouTube for the uncensored version. Check out the trailer below.