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The Ray Lewis Legacy: Champion or Criminal?

Ray Lewis, inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2013.
Ray Lewis, inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2013.
Photo by Larry French/Getty Images

It was February 3, 2013, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The game had been played, the confetti had flown. The Baltimore Ravens had been named the champions of Super Bowl XLVII, with a 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers. It was the second Super Bowl win for Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. It was the end of a seventeen year career that was played entirely with Baltimore. According to ESPN, this last game certainly wasn't the best game. But it ended the way any linebacker would want his career to end: with two tackles during the opponents' final drive. A goal line stand. And a win.

However, as reported in 2013 by USA Today, while Ray Lewis -- who will be remembered as one of the greatest middle linebackers to play the game -- will likely someday have a spot in the Pro Bowl Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, 20 miles down the road, in Akron, a the mother of one of the men Lewis was once accused of murdering still doesn't want to believe her son is dead. Her son Richard Lollar, age 24, and his friend Jacinth Baker, 21, were stabbed to death in late January, 2000, outside a night club in Atlanta where there had reportedly been a fight with Lewis' entourage. It was hours after the Super Bowl was played there.

Lewis was jailed for 11 days following the stabbings and accused of the murders along with two of his friends. Baker's blood was found in Lewis' limo, USA Today reported. The white suit that Lewis had been wearing that night was never found. Lewis was initially charged with two counts of murder. However, in a deal that included agreeing to testify against his friends, he pleaded guilty of a misdemeanor charge for obstruction of justice. He never testified against his friends and they were acquitted.

Lewis received a $250,000 fine from the NFL and a year of probation.

A year later, in 2001, Lewis was named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player following the Ravens' 34-7 win over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV in Atlanta. This also wasn't the best game of his career, because the NFL Defensive Player of the Year "didn't intercept a pass or return a fumble for a touchdown," the wire report stated. He did during the post game press conference, however, credit a "higher power" for the complete difference from where he was the year before and said to those who criticized him: "If the world wants to see me stumble now, I'll stumble with a [Super Bowl] ring on my finger."

Raymond Anthony Lewis, Jr., the oldest of five children, was born in Florida in 1975. He was a high school football and wrestling star. He received a full scholarship to University of Miami, where he ranks fifth in school history in tackles. The Baltimore Ravens made him a first round pick in 1996. Lewis is only the sixth player in NFL history to be named Defensive Player of the Year -- in 2000 and again in 2003 -- and was AFC Defensive Player of the year in 2000, 2001 and 2003. He earned thirteen trips to the Pro Bowl.

According to USA Today, back in Akron, in 2013, the uncle of Jacinth Baker lamented that America was more interested in Lewis playing football than in his implication in the murders. The aunt of Richard Lollar said she wished she could talk to Lewis. She said she would ask him for money, to build a beauty shop in memory of her nephew. Meanwhile, the daughter of Richard Lollar -- born about a month after her father's death -- attended a private school near Atlanta. In 2004, her family sued Lewis on her behalf for $13 million and reached an undisclosed settlement.

In February, 2013, in New Orleans, the game had ended. The confetti had fallen. According to ESPN, Ray Lewis held the Lombardi Trophy and he said, "It's simple: If God is for you, who can be against you?" Lewis is currently a sports commentator with ESPN.

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