Jeffrey Greene was at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on Saturday afternoon when he answered a phone call from an unfamiliar number.
“Don’t panic. Relax,” his son, Brannen, told him over the phone. “But something happened last night.”
Brannen, a former Kansas basketball player who declared on March 30 for the NBA draft, had called his father from a phone in a New York Sprint store to tell him that he was uninjured after being involved in a car accident while traveling in an Uber vehicle from the airport to a condo. He had flown in from Los Angeles to continue workouts with NBA teams in advance of the draft June 23.
“The car was actually on the highway moving forward,” Jeffrey said, relaying what Brannen told him. “They were hit from the rear. And they were hit so hard that there’s an overpass above them, a bridge. And the car went so high in the air, it actually hit underneath the overpass and then came back down and went airborne again. That’s how hard they were hit.”
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Brannen told his father that the collision set the car on fire. Brannen, who was wearing his seat belt, said that the whole sequence felt like he was in a dream.
“He said it just dawned on him you’ve got to unlatch (the belt),” Jeffrey said. “Then he had trouble finding the latch to disengage himself.”
Once he did, Brannen said he was able to get out of the vehicle through one of the windows. Brannen reported that a few seconds after exiting, the car erupted in flames behind him.
“It was a blessing that all the windows shattered on impact,” Jeffrey said. “That’s a blessing, because when he and that driver got themselves out of the seatbelt, they were able to get out the windows.”
Brannen told his father that all of the belongings with him — including his iPad, iPhone, computer and clothes — were lost in the fire. After sleeping that night, he walked to the Sprint store to tell his dad about the incident and to get a new phone.
“He’s feeling great surprisingly,” Jeffrey said. “Any time you can walk away from that type of accident where you’re bouncing around in the air and the car catches fire, and then you’re escaping and it explodes, you wake up the next day and go, ‘Wow. I’m OK.’”
Brannen took to his Twitter account to talk about his accident Sunday afternoon.
“Everything happens for a reason. I’m all good and healthy!” he tweeted. “Back to playing ball already. Thank you everyone for the love and support!”
Jeffrey, who talked to his son a few times again Sunday, said the incident was causing lingering emotional effects.
“When he closes his eyes, when he tries to sleep at night, he relives the accident,” Jeffrey said. “So it’s going to take a few more days.”
Brannen, who averaged 5.4 points in 30 games for KU last season, hasn’t slowed down with basketball activities. Jeffrey said he’d already had four workouts with NBA teams and had seven more planned, including a few this week.
“They’re still scheduled. He’s like, ‘I’m fine. Where’s a gym? Where’s a basketball?’” Jeffrey said. “That’s his mentality, and it has to be mine.”
Brannen and his father had not yet gotten a copy of the accident report. The Star contacted the New York Police Department, which was still working a request for the report as of Sunday night.
Jeffrey called it “miraculous” that his son was not only able to escape the incident, but did so with his health.
“He found (his seat belt) five seconds soon enough, and for that we are so thankful,” ” Jeffrey said.
Jesse Newell: @jessenewell