Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"It Will Always Be About More Than Basketball" - Happy Birthday Coach Wooden!

"Success comes from knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."

Today, the legendary UCLA Men's Basketball Coach John Wooden celebrates his 99th Birthday. A truly great sportsman who carried his team to a record-setting 10 championships in 12 years, Wooden may be best remembered for the Wooden-isms (like the quote above) that stand the test of time -- to learn more about the "Wizard of Westwood", check out 99 Things about John Wooden. Nothing could honor the man, the myth, and the legend more than a new documentary More Than A Game that covers the remarkable young career of LeBron James.

Our whole family was amped to watch "the LeBron documentary", to learn more about the NBA sensation who broke all kinds of records as the youngest ever player to score 1000 points in the NBA and as the #1 pick in the 2004 NBA Draft straight out of high school. Directed by fellow Ohioan Kristofer Belman (who was just 21 years-old when he decided to film LeBron and the Akron St. Vincent-St Mary High School junior and senior year seasons) the documentary possesses the classic sports metaphors that melt our hearts, and infuses it with the darker side of athletic celebrity: the temptation and corruption of stealing the spotlight so early. (In theaters now, rated PG - we think it's best for kids over ten).

Right from the whistle we root for LeBron's success, pulling for the youngster who never knew his father and was born to a 16-year old unwed mother. While the film inevitably zones in on LeBron, it is also a movie about loyalty, teamwork, and sportsmanship, and the group effort that makes high-school athletics such an integral part of the American coming-of-age experience. It's clear that LeBron's success was a team effort - starting with his mom and continuing throughout his career with his teammates. No sports film is complete without a Wooden-worthy coach, and the St. Vincent Coach, Dru Joyce II, jump starts the film by paternally reminding his kids, "Basketball is a vehicle, not a be-all and end-all. Use basketball, don't let it use you."

Our kids love playing recreation league basketball; they started before the age of five and played all the way into middle school. Like AYSO, everybody gets their chance to play, parents get to root from the sidelines and the lessons learned on the court (and from a good coach) are life-long. Only a tiny fraction of the most talented athletes wind up playing sports professionally, something we always remind the kids we have coached (when they are down on themselves). As John Wooden and LeBron have taught us, it's how you play the game that really counts.

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