By the time of his death due to throat cancer in 2010, Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins had cemented his place in snooker history as one of the most enigmatic players to ever pick up a cue.
But with his enviable talent on the green baize, came a temperamental personality, which regularly saw his life splashed across tabloid headlines.
Known as the ‘People’s Champion’ because of his popularity, Higgins is often credited with having brought the game of snooker to a wider audience in the 1980s.
Higgins’ brilliance is being showcased again when BBC2’s ‘Crucible Classics’ takes trip down memory lane on Sunday (3pm) to relive his thrilling 1982 World Championship final victory over Ray Reardon.
When the Hurricane took the last three frames to lift the trophy, there were emotional scenes at the Crucible which live long in the memory.
His 69 break against Jimmy White in their semi-final of the same tournament is commonly regarded as the best the sport has seen.
World title glory in ’82 turned out to be the peak of Higgins’ career and his tumultuous life swiftly, and sadly, went into a nosedive soon after.
By 1985 his marriage had ended and he was handed a five-tournament ban and a £12,000 fine for brutally headbutting a WPBSA official after being asked to take a drugs test.
In 1989 he broke multiple bones having fallen out a window while trying to slip out from home to a casino, but he still managed to claim the Irish Professional Championships soon after.
As he went further off the rails, Higgins famously threatened to have Dennis Taylor shot in 1991, while he was beaten with an iron bar during an argument in a nightclub six years later.
When in the same year, his girlfriend Holly Haise stabbed him three times during a domestic argument and it seemed Higgins’ days as a chain-smoking gunslinger were numbered.
He squandered millions of pounds of prize money and his final years were spent fighting throat cancer and hustling for money to feed his betting habit.
Higgins lost his battle with cancer at the age of 61, bringing an end to the life of arguably the most controversial player to have ever graced the sport.
Ronnie O’Sullivan, himself a five-time world champion, said: “Alex Higgins was one of the real inspirations behind me getting into snooker in the first place.
“He is a legend of snooker, and should forever be remembered as the finest ever snooker player.”
Steve Davis summed up the impact of Higgins on snooker, insisting he moved the sport into a new era.
A fast thinker at the table, Davis recalls fondly Higgins’ ability to play with the boundaries of the sport’s etiquette.
“In a game that is reserved and we wear bow ties and suits you could read what Alex Higgins was thinking,” Davis said.
“He had that magnetism that is rare in sport and he was demonstrative around the table.”
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