Timberwolves swingman Malik Sealy was killed Saturday when his sport utility vehicle was hit head-on by a pickup truck traveling the wrong way on a divided highway.
Sealy, 30, died of head and chest injuries after the 4 a.m. CDT crash on Highway 100 just north of a construction zone in suburban St. Louis Park.
He was on his way home after celebrating the 24th birthday of teammate Kevin Garnett, who had admired Sealy as a youth.
The pickup driver, Souksangouane Phengsene, 43, was traveling north in the southbound lane, the state patrol said. He was in serious condition with head and chest injuries.
Neither was wearing a seat belt, police said. An airbag deployed in the truck. Sealy's sport utility vehicle didn't have an airbag.
Authorities had not talked to Phengsene by Saturday night, said Capt. Al Smith of the state patrol.
Timberwolves players and players' wives were at Sealy's home comforting his wife, Lisa, and young son, Malik Remington, said coach Flip Saunders and Kevin McHale, vice president of basketball operations.
"This is a sudden and devastating loss to our team," McHale said. "We're in shock. Malik was one of the most popular players in our locker room, and one of the biggest reasons behind our turnaround and success this past season on the court."
At a news conference, team president Rob Moor called Sealy a "unique individual."
"His sense of humor is what I'll remember more than anything. His off-the-cuff comments; he could take you by surprise and say the most wonderful things at the perfect time. That's something we'll certainly miss," Moor said.
Donnie Walsh, president of the Pacers, the team that chose Sealy in the first round of the 1992 draft, remembered him as "a tremendous performer and a true gentleman."
Sealy is the second NBA player killed in a traffic accident this year. Charlotte Hornets guard Bobby Phills died after a crash on Jan. 12, when he and teammate David Wesley were racing their Porsches at more than 100 mph after a morning practice.
Sealy had just finished his eighth season and his second with the Timberwolves.
He averaged 11.3 points in the regular season and 12.5 in the playoffs as Minnesota was eliminated in four games in the first round by the Trail Blazers. He played in every regular-season and playoff game.
Sealy, who also played in the NBA for the Clippers and Pistons, grew up in New York and starred at St. John's, where he was the school's second-leading career scorer behind Chris Mullin when he left after his senior season in 1992.
"We will long remember Malik, not only for his outstanding ability on the basketball court, but also for his gentleness and strength of character in our classrooms and throughout our campus," said the Rev. Donald J. Harrington, president of St. John's.
Besides his wife and son, Sealy is survived by his parents, Sidney and Ann.