Editor’s note: This obituary is presented in partnership with The Philadelphia Obituary Project, a nonprofit committed to memorializing city victims of homicide whose deaths have otherwise been overlooked.
“If you can lose on the court, then you can understand life,” Coach Kevin Perry used to remind his star basketball player, Tahmair Timms.
Although Tahmair was shorter than the other Olney Eagles, he was a ferocious competitor who scarcely tolerated losing. During a regional playoff game in 2017, when the Eagles were getting hammered by their opponent, Tahmair shouted at his teammates: “C’mon, y’all, let’s get it together!”
“Tah-Tah,” as he was known, then sunk a series of three-pointers, led his team to victory and captured the MVP award.
“He had that Michael Jordan attitude,” his coach remembered. “Michael Jordan was hard on his team but he loved his team.”
Tahmair’s mother, Regina, enrolled him in basketball and football when he was 4 years old to keep him active and out of trouble while she was busy working three jobs to support her four sons. Born in North Philadelphia, Tahmair initially didn’t grasp the concept of a tackle, his coach remembered, misinterpreting it as a sign of disrespect.
“That’s why he ran so many touchdowns,” Perry recalled. “He was the littlest kid out there who had the biggest mouth.”
Sports were Tahmair’s safe haven, and he went on to win nine championships with the Onley Eagles and loads of trophies for his football team, the Swaghawks. But the COVID-19 pandemic forced the neighborhood league to suspend practices for much of last year.
On Dec. 3, 2020, shortly after sunset, Tahmair was shot in the chest and the back on the 5900 block of Mascher Street in the city’s Olney section. He was 14 and was not the intended target, according to his family. A police investigation is ongoing.
Nine months earlier, Tahmair’s mother had moved the family to a gated suburban community near the Florida Keys to escape the surging gun violence in Philadelphia, which killed or wounded more than 185 children in 2020.
The family returned to Philadelphia for Thanksgiving, but when it came time to leave, Tahmair asked his mother if he could stay longer with his father in Lawncrest. Despite the move, he was still a freshman attending virtual classes through Samuel Fels High School. His mother and brothers departed Philadelphia for Florida on Nov. 30.
Four days later, Tahmair’s mother received word that her son had died. “He didn’t make it,” an Einstein doctor informed her via FaceTime.
Tahmair’s father, Clarence Timms, remembered his son as his spitting image, a boy who was wise beyond his years. Some of Tahmair’s friends nicknamed him “32,” because Clarence Timms came from the 3200 block of the Abbottsford Homes development in North Philadelphia.
Father and son used to go jogging before dawn, hashing out game strategies, Tahmair’s father recalled. Determined to go pro in basketball, Tahmair told his dad that he would buy him a house someday.
“The whole day could be messed up and he would brighten the day up,” Clarence Timms said.
Tahmair’s carefree side shined when he rode the most terrifying roller coasters at amusement parks, or pranked his brothers by decorating them with baby powder, lipstick, and his mom’s wigs while they were sleeping.
In the sports arena, however, Tahmair was unapologetically aggressive and singularly focused on the prize. He berated the screen during multiplayer video games.
With his mother cheering from the sidelines, Tahmair thrived on the attention. If the team was losing and the coach pulled him out to give another player a chance, Tahmair grunted, balled up his fists, and stormed off the court, threatening to take his jersey off.
“No matter what [game] he touched, he could be a star in any one of them,” Perry said. “Whatever he did, he went hard at it.”
More than 200 people attended Tahmair’s funeral at Deliverance Evangelistic Church last month, the procession engulfing several blocks.
Regina buried her son in his favorite ensemble: His “red bottoms” (Christian Louboutin sneakers), G-Star Raw pants that felt like suede, and a gold-and-black button-down shirt from Versace.
Some of Tahmair’s teammates from his basketball brotherhood declined to attend the funeral, preferring to remember Tah-Tah as the cyclone on the court, urging everyone to bring their A game.
“You gotta play for [Tahmair],” Perry tells them, “because he can’t play no more.”
A reward of up to $20,000 is available to anyone that comes forward with information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the persons responsible for Tahmair’s killing. Anyone with information may call the Citizens Crime Commission at 215-546-TIPS.