Basketball Has Lost A Legend.

I was deeply sadden to learn that John Wooden had passed away on Friday night. Short of the inventor of the sport James Naismith, you can say John Wooden was the 2nd most influential person on the sport. He was a person that gives me pride in the fact I love this sport. He has had so much influence on so many beyond where he became a coaching legend at UCLA. His 7 NCAA titles in a row and his 10 championships in 12 years will never be matched. But the same can be said for the type of human being he was.

The simple reality is not many people live to be 99 years old in general in this world. Still well into his 90's he would talk to people and attend UCLA games. He even was brought in to talk with the Raptors on a West Coast trip during the Rob Babcock era. You hear people talk about his "pyramid of success" it is not just for basketball but for life.

Last night on the NBA finals you heard from 2 of his great players in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton speaking about him prior to the tip of game 2. It seemed fitting to have both a Celtic and Laker to both speak so highly of their former college coach. In fact whatever team you happen to cheer for it does not matter. John Wooden is a legend that goes beyond team. He was a man built on solid values and ideals. He did his best to share those values and ideals with the world through the sport of basketball.

To often we use words like Legend and Icon in sports. This is a man that truly was one. Despite that he was a very humble man that never let his status of being a true living icon impact on who he was. He loved his wife who he lost 20 years prior to his own death. His love and devotion to her even after she was gone was equally inspiring. In the many tributes of Wooden that I heard over the weekend there was one thing that spoke to this. When they wanted to honour Wooden at UCLA by having his name on the court the Bruins play. He insisted that his wife Nellie have her name on it as well. In fact not just on it but listed first. Nel and John Wooden court is where the Bruins play their games on as a result.

Not just basketball, but the world lost a great man on Friday night. I encourage you to learn more about someone who was a person the likes of which this world may never see again. I think it is important to remember these people that shaped the sport and built it to what it has become. It is why I will always mention Bill Russell in a conversation about the greatest ever. He like Wooden, has always looked give back to those in the game today. He is always willing to talk with players and share his knowledge with others. He himself did some things that will never be done again as well.

So in that spirit, I will close this tribute with some great quotes from John Wooden on life and sports.

John Wooden Quotes

  • "Material possessions, winning scores, and great reputations are meaningless in the eyes of the Lord, because He knows what we really are and that is all that matters."
  • "Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."
  • "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are. "
  • "Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful. "
  • "What you are as a person is far more important that what you are as a basketball player. "
  • "You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one. "
  • "A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment. "

There are countless other quotes from this man. Here is a link to website with some of the better ones beyond the ones that I selected. Wooden has a 7 Point Creed that was given to him from his father on his Graduation from grammar school.

  • Be true to yourself.
  • Make each day your masterpiece.
  • Help others.
  • Drink deeply from good books, especially the bible
  • Make friendship a fine art.
  • Build a shelter against a rainy day.
  • Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.
My own father passed away on June 2nd in 1987. One of the expressions he said that sticks with me is, "Aim for the moon and if you miss you will land among the stars". My father did not have as long a life as coach Wooden did. Passing away at the age of 53. However, no matter when a person is taken from us, it still is never easy to lose someone at any age. That being said, John Wooden got the most out of his 99 plus years on this earth. His teaching and words will long out live the man.

John Wooden never coached a game in the NBA but his impact on it and the sport is larger than anyone can imagine. He is one of few folks who has earned the titles of legend and icon in this sport. Sadly for all of us it does not include immortal. He will be deeply missed by his family and the sport of basketball.

Will get back to our normal thing of Raptors and NBA tomorrow. I felt it was important to take the time today to honour a man that is worthy of it. I am only one of many, many that will. John Wooden touched so many people and did so much good for the world. If any of us could accomplish even a quarter of what John Wooden did in life, we could consider our life a success. His memory will live on with the people that love basketball. Just as my memory of my own father lives on with me.

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