Athletes reflect on idols, Black History Month
From Jesse Owens to Venus and Serena Williams, black athletes in the public sphere have earned respect and admiration for their actions in competition and out in the world.
Student athletes at Guilford took the time to explain what contemporary sports figures they hold in high esteem and why.
“I look up to LeBron James, honestly,” said sophomore Alston Thompson, a forward for the men’s basketball team, in an email interview. “Although not my favorite player in the NBA, he is the most inspiring.”
James became a household name playing basketball for St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio. In 2003, the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted him first overall, and since then, James has become a 13-time NBA All-Star, four-time MVP and has won three championships.
“He overcomes odds and has a hunger to be the greatest person and basketball player ever,” said Thompson. “He has had so much adversity in his life and has always had fame. Even before the money, he had people all over him. He has managed ,and continues to manage, all this fame and money, and while still being a caring person in the community and one of the greatest on the court.”
In 2015, the LeBron James Family Foundation pledged more than $41 million in scholarships to send kids to the University of Akron tuition-free. James frequently works with other charities and organizations, too, like the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
Another student athlete looked to a figure in the sport they play.
“Being a golfer, Tiger Woods has always been my hero and someone who I have looked up too,” said senior Kendall Dunn, a member of the golf team, in an email interview. “He has inspired me to be the best golfer I could be.”
Though he may be nearing retirement, Woods has 79 PGA Tour wins in his career, the second most all-time. Additionally, he has won 14 major championship titles, the second most of any golfer in history.
In a white golfing culture, Woods’ race also made him stand out.
“He was the first golfer that I ever saw on TV, and for me, he was the only one that looked like me,” said Dunn. “Playing golf, most kids don’t. Golf is a sport that, for the most part, is played by white people. To see him out there and not just win tournaments, but dominate the field was amazing to me.”
Whether they play individually or with a team, there are plenty of black athletes to celebrate in the world of sports.
“So an African-American individual I have looked up to all my life is Tim Duncan, who just recently retired after 19 years with the San Antonio Spurs,” said junior Mesa Martorell, a member of the men’s tennis team, in an email interview.
As a Spur, Duncan won five championships, three NBA Finals MVP awards and was a 15-time All-Star. Teammates, opponents and onlookers noted his professional and calm approach to the game of basketball during his career as well as his loyalty.
“I have the absolute upmost respect for Timmy because he is the best example of a class act in the sports world I have ever seen,” said Martorell. “His love for the game, his teammates, his coach and his fans is unmatchable. He was an amazing team player and was the backbone of one of, if not the, most (successful) professional sports teams of the past couple decades. I adore him dearly, and he has served as a great role model for my entire youth.”