John Wooden and Me

Walking through Mar Vista, I looked at my yellow and blue outfit and thought of John Wooden. No, my outfit was not a completely conscious tribute to the late coach, but as I put on that most hated blue and gold—I grew up an SC fan—I could not help but think of him. (I guess the full page of John Wooden pictures on LATimes.com this morning may have had an influence on me.)

My relationship with Coach Wooden began in grade school, long after his tenure at UCLA ended. It began as my brother and I began our long basketball careers. It began with this white haired man—plus an assistant—in an empty gym and me sitting next to my brother and father. Oh yeah…we were not in the gym. We were on a three tone brown couch watching a VHS of this man talk about the two-handed chest pass oppose to the one-handed bounce pass. Mind you, prior to Mr. Wooden, my knowledge of basketball was the ’91 NBA Finals and Sedale “The Thief” Threatt. I liked basketball. I liked the Lakers, and I loved Magic Johnson. Outside of that, all I knew was that I wanted to play organized basketball. Besides, it could not be as difficult as Mr. Wooden’s assistant—a kid older than myself in John Stockton shorts and that charming Bobby Knight smile—made it seem. I mean come on! I routinely beat my bother in the back yard, and I was not picked last at school. How hard could it be?

We sat. We watched. First, we watched as Wooden’s legend grew through a voice over on top of grainy, desaturated film of Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton. Then we listened as Coach Wooden explained zone defense. Next, we listened to our father re-iterated what was just stated. (Little did we know that my father was learning just like us.) We watched. We practiced. Then, again, we watched. We watched Mr. Wooden so much that when UCLA became NCAA Champs in ’95 (by now my basketball career had ended), I was able to tell other eleven year-olds that UCLA Men’s Basketball was the greatest college team ever. Thanks of course to John Wooden. Did I mention that I was an SC fan?

Yes, I wear my yellow and blue outfit in honor of the man who taught me the science of basketball. The man who said rebounding is not about how you can jump, but about proper positioning and timing. The man who made me want to be the best rebounder in the world. Thank you, Mr. Wooden because lord knows I am not the highest jumper.Not in Mar Vista

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