Professor Veley recently decided to challenge all of us by asking us who would be on our sports “Mount Rushmore list.” For those of you who are not familiar with the concept, he essentially was asking that if we could go to dinner with any four people in the sport industry (alive or dead), who would it be. This was an extremely difficult question especially after meeting with all of the incredible talent that we sport management students from Syracuse University have gotten the remarkable opportunity to learn from in the past few days. Considering I have always been and will always be a huge Miami Heat fan and hence a Dwayne Wade fan at heart, Wade would most definitely make my list.
Yesterday, March 13th, 2012, we were given the incredible opportunity to tour the facilities of UCLA including the Hall of Fame. Keith Erikson, former player for Coach John Robert Wooden and the Los Angeles Lakers as well as US Olympic team member for volleyball, was kind enough to give us his insight into Coach Wooden. Following Erikson’s presentation we watched a video in remembrance of Coach Wooden himself, which to me, was extremely emotional and inspirational. With tears building up in my eyes I knew Coach Wooden would definitely make that list simply because of the man he was. According to Erikson, Coach Wooden at the age of 95 was still always striving to be a better man tomorrow than he was today, which to me is refreshing. Living by his pyramid of success, seven point creed given to him by his father, and his two sets of three’s, Wooden set himself apart from not only every coach in the nation, but as a person as well. Agreeing with an American sports writer speaking on behalf of Wooden saying, “there has never been a finer coach in American sports nor a finer man.”
Bright and early the following day, the group was given the unbelievable opportunity to meet one-on-one with NBA Hall of Famer and former UCLA championship winner, Bill Walton. Listening to Walton speak felt as if Coach Wooden was speaking to us through him proving the remarkable impact that Coach Wooden had on his players. At Syracuse University in our sport management program, we talk over and over again about “paying it forward” and simply always giving back. Not only was Walton successful on the court, but also he has dedicated his life to overcoming challenges and paying it forward. He currently works with a charity called Challenged Athletes Foundation where he strives to help those challenged athletes like himself over 30 surgeries later. Listening to Walton speak immediately just grabbed my attention and made me tear up. I do not know what it was exactly, but everything that came out of his mouth just felt so real and so genuine and it was beyond refreshing. Bill Walton was carrying on Coach Woodens’ rules of life by teaching and advising us, the next generation. When looking at our itinerary and noticing that we had to be on the bus at 5:30am to meet Bill Walton, we all were a little cranky. However, I bet that if anyone of us had the chance to wake up even earlier for even just ten more minutes with Mr. Walton, no one would turn that down. Mr. Walton embodies the kind of person I want to be someday: successful, loyal, genuine, and generous. Bill Walton is nothing like most athletes today who are full of themselves and put themselves on a pedestal to us “common people.” Bill Walton is the guy who would sit for hours and hours on end to do anything from the dirty work to get the job done to signing autographs and taking pictures for anyone who asked. Bill Walton is the third person I would love to be able to sit down and have dinner with just so he could keep speaking and I could keep listening.
As for the fourth and final person on my list, that decision involves a lot more thought and consideration. We are only half way done our amazing trip and I am positive there are many more remarkable people to still learn from within the sports industry that we will be hearing from in the last four days.