From the obituary in today's Scotsman:
Trying to tell someone what Higgins was like at the table is like attempting to say why Best, or Pele, or Muhammad Ali was so great. Like them we can see the pictures, but you cannot explain the sheer buzz, the electric atmosphere that crackled even in the practice rooms when Higgins strolled forward, chalking his cue and checking the balls, playing out the next 20 shots in his mind with the dexterity of a chess grand master.
Then he would bend over and zip, zap and zoom – ball after ball would crack into a pocket, or else he would craft a deliciously slow drop to place the white bang in line for the next shot. It was mesmeric stuff. You could not take your eyes off him as he compiled break after break, and it was all the product of the greatest natural talent snooker has ever seen. . .Higgins was there first and foremost, blasting opponents off the table, and that, and not the pernicious headlines, is why he is a legend.
For us kids growing up in Northern Ireland in the 70's and 80's there were only two idols: George Best and Alex Higgins. Both were flamboyant, outrageous, gifted; both to some extent squandered their talent on drink, women, gambling and self destruction. Still, when they were good they were very very good. George Best now has an airport named after him. There's a nice summary of the good, bad and ugly of Higgins in his obit in The Independent, here.