Inspiration & Sports

John Wooden’s Legacy Beyond Basketball

I first heard of John Wooden when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the legendary Los Angeles Lakers center, talked lengthily about him in his book Kareem.

Wooden was Jabbar’s college coach back in his dominant days with the University of California, Los Angeles.

He talked about Wooden’s life-long influence on his life, even when he eventually became a superstar in the NBA – first with the Milwaukee Bucks, and eventually with the Lakers, where he won five league championships in Los Angeles’ Showtime era.

Wooden is America’s legendary basketball, leading the UCLA to 10 US NCAA national championships in a 12-year period—including seven in a row, an unprecedented feat to this day.

And within that period, his UCLA teams won an unprecedented 88 consecutive games. For his collegiate basketball coaching feats, he was named national coach of the year six times.

Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at left), celebrating an NCAA national championship with Wooden in the 1960s.

An amazing facet of Wooden’s life was his Christian faith, something that only a few American coaches possess.

There’s no doubt, a lot of talented and innovative coaches abound in America. There are thousands of coaches who can draw the best from their players through various ways and means.

But I really believe in what Wooden said in his best-selling autobiography They Call Me Coach(2003) where he said, and I quote: “I have always tried to make it clear that basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior.”

Indeed, basketball is not the ultimate thing in life for any basketball player.

A pro baller won’t play in the PBA or NBA for life. Playing for 10 years would be a blessing in itself.

But what’s far greater is how he would live his life outside the basketball court.

Living it for God each day is what would make life worth living.

As the author of Proverbs said, 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not  on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. (Proverbs 3:5-7).

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