Had "Hurricane" higgins never picked up a cue, snooker as we know it may not exist. As a young punk with a quick stroke and an even quicker temper, he elevated the unpopular, old man's game from a sport played in dark, dank billiard halls to one played under the glare of television cameras. Higgins, who was found dead July 24 at age 61 in his Belfast home, sank even the toughest shots with ease. When asked how he did it, he shrugged his shoulders, unsure of where his innate talent came from. He simply took aim, and the balls followed suit.
From working-class roots in Northern Ireland, he stumbled upon a snooker hall at age 11 while taking a shortcut home; 12 years later he was a world champion (which at the time made him the youngest player ever to hold the title). He went on to win the title a second and final time in 1982, in a series of matches still featured in highlight reels.
Higgins' trademark fedora and flamboyant swagger loosely garbed a proclivity for raising hell. Nicknamed Hurricane for both his fast style and his destructive habits, he once head-butted a tournament director when asked to take a drug test. But it was that mix of charisma and intensity that made him a joy to watch, made snooker a British phenomenon and put sponsorship money in players' pockets. Remembering his legacy, fellow snooker pro Adrian Gunnell said, "We all owe our careers to him."