A Basketball Star’s Message Of Self-Assertiveness
Aug 02, 2018Posted by james

My longtime friend and teammate Vinny Sombratto and I were watching the Nassau County high school lacrosse championships a few months ago. We talked a lot about the games, the players and the overall competition of Long Island high school lacrosse. Then, out of the blue, we started talking about professional basketball.

Well, I guess that was on me! I had wondered out loud who would be considered among the top five and then the top 10 professional basketball players of all time. Vinny and I bounced around names such as Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, John Havlicek and Jerry West. Not one New York Knick was mentioned.

Soon after, a Knick player did come to mind. It wasn’t for his game, which was very good, but for what he has done since the end of his professional career. Dick Barnett won two championships with the Knicks and his number 12 jersey can be found in the Madison Square Garden rafters. He’s 81 now and he has dedicated his life to speaking with children about the importance of education and, in his words, “the limitless dimensions of human possibilities.”

After basketball, Dick earned his doctorate, opening doors that otherwise may not have opened for him. He had to adapt to new situations. A person, according to Dick, must be able to get along with people by making the adjustments necessary to function in a multicultural society.

Dick understood that there is much more to life than sports and that a sports career can and will end quickly at any level. With the arena in his rear view mirror, Dick understood that the sports sheath of protection eventually would unravel and that adjustments were necessary to face new challenges. It was time to join the rest of America and become as vulnerable to life’s daily give and take as the rest of the population.

Dick’s communication with children is not a clinic. He defines the interaction as a humanitarian effort to talk with young people about some of the issues that affect everyone. They talk about their dreams, education, economic circumstances and living a better life. Dick often refers to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when he tells the children that to live a dream a person must reach down into the inner chambers of the soul to find the ink and pen of self-assertiveness.

While Dick Barnett may not be mentioned in a conversation about professional basketball’s elite players, his message to our children about self-assertiveness ranks number one!