Alex Higgins was snooker’s first great anti-hero, an innately talented snooker player whose machine-gun potting style helped point the sport towards its boom years of the 1980s. He was “the people’s champion”.
Most would prefer to remember Higgins as the one-time boy snooker hustler, nicknamed “Hurricane” because of the speed of his play, who became a sporting superstar. In his prime, whomever he might have been playing, he was able to command the spotlight in a manner no other snooker player has – Jimmy White and Ronnie O’Sullivan included.
Higgins’s 1972 triumph came in his first attempt to win snooker’s grandest and most exacting tournament. At the age of 22, he became the youngest man to lift the trophy. While the prize-money was hardly luxurious, it did at least help him find somewhere to live.
Higgins came to be known as the “People’s Champion” because of his popularity and is often credited with having brought the game of snooker to a wider audience, contributing to its peak in popularity in the 1980s. He had a reputation as an unpredictable and difficult character. He was a heavy smoker, struggled with drinking and gambling, and admitted to using cocaine and marijuana. First diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998, Higgins died of multiple causes in his Belfast home on 24 July 2010. Higgins still holds the highest break to win a World Championship, being 135 in the 1982 final against Ray Reardon.