Allow me to commence my remarks with my heartfelt congratulations to all of the “incredible individuals” who are being honored here this evening. I say to each of you thank you for your extraordinary contributions to the game of basketball. To share this momentous occasion with each of you is a humbling experience.
On numerous occasions in my adult life I chose to hit “the pause” button in my everyday activities then I seek refuge in a solitary environment where I can engage in “self-reflection” this is my time to reflect on the past, the present, and the future.
On numerous occasions as I indulge in “self-reflection” I have concluded that I just might be the “luckiest person” God has ever created.
Reality is this, I’ve had more good things happen to me in my lifetime than any one person deserves.
Who would have ever thought that a little black boy who romped around the streets of Washington DC in short pants, dirty legs and feet, no shoes, would ever raise to this level of achievement?
Not once during my early growth did my Mom, Dad, Grandmother ever say to me “George when you grow up we want you to go to college.” In those days black folks could not afford the luxury of dreaming such “daring dreams.” How dare them to think that George could be “somebody” other than “nobody.”
We got up in the mornings and in a “tip-toe” stance we would look out the window into a world which was most challenging for us. The challenge was to survive the next 24 hours. Thus, at the age of 10-11-12-13 I had no idea what I wanted to be, except alive.
Perhaps you can sum up my basketball story in simple terms, “a boy, a ball, an opportunity.”
Little did I know that the moment I picked up my first basketball it would become “my mistress” and from that moment forward it would enrich my life. How was I to know? The little round basketball helped me to begin the process of “discovery,” who I am? what am I capable of being? why am I on Earth?
The little leather ball helped me secure a scholarship to Villanova, a career in college coaching, and a leadership career for a fortune 500 company, Nike. And perhaps most of all it provided me with the opportunity to observe life from a much more meaningful perspective.
I believe it is impossible to overstate the “positive impact” the game of basketball has had on my life.
“The game” teaches enduring life lessons:
– You must follow a basic set of rules
– You don’t win all the time, you don’t lose all the time
– You learn to compete on “equal terms” with whites, blacks, asians, latinos, big/small, fast/slow, talented/less talented
– You must make personal sacrifices for the good of the group
– You must share the ball
– You learn to respect a given set of boundaries
– You must be teachable, coachable, & disciplined
– Sometimes you can win.. and still lose. Sometimes you can lose… and still win
– Finally you learn that it’s not about “me” it’s always about “us”
Yes, the game of basketball teaches and prepares it’s participants to ultimately become winners in the biggest game they will ever participate in, the “game of life.”
As I mentioned earlier I’ve been extremely lucky I have had my life filled with “Dream Makers”, individuals who believed in me, even when I did not believe in myself. Frankly speaking I owe 70% of any success realized by me to the little round leather ball, the basketball.
Now let me turn to the other side of the coin of my life…
The greatest influences on my life have been:
– My mom and grandmother
– My Godfather
– Villanova and Nike
They have been “the positive difference makers” they took one of God’s children and modeled him into a man. They gave me the self-esteem to “keep on keeping on”
– To be curious
– To be a learner
– To be passionate
– To be a discoverer
– To be diligent
– To be all I can be
Only God and I truly realize the vital role Villanova and Nike have played in my growth as a human being.
Yes, I am a product of those two giant institutions… Villanova and Nike. Folks, they took a lemon and made lemonade.
Let me move to my conclusion by voicing my sincere appreciation to those persons who took the time to mentor, inspire, believe, and guide me. You are the “special ones” who believed in me.
Thank you to my dear friends, colleagues, true believers and influencers. You have had a most positive effect on my life.
And finally to my loving family… Godfather… in-laws… along with my most prized possessions, my wife, my son, my daughter, and my grandchildren. They keep me grounded. Thank you for your never ending love.
Let me conclude with these words:
On this day Sunday November 24, 2013, the “basketball gods” have showered their blessings on one of the “least of God’s children” … George Raveling
For providing me with this historic opportunity I simply say, “Thank You”