Monday, December 30, 2019

19 for 2019: No 16-18. Shared Birthdays and 17 Other Things You Should Know about Chris Mullin

Largely acclaimed as among the greatest in their respective sports, Tiger Woods and LeBron James share the same birthday: December 30. Therefore it is only fitting that today's "Sports and Spirituality's 19 for 2019" profile each athlete on this special day. However, I have to keep posting number 17 for a man who bares the number.  
#16 Tiger Woods
As a sports fan, I love that the holidays bring a "year in review" of athletic accomplishments and achievements. Sure, some years are better than others, but the wide world os sports has yet to disappoint me. There is always some underdog who rises to the top, some unexpected victory, one path of total domination. And in 2019, it is hard to argue that The Masters—and its champion—didn't take the cake.

This morning at the gym, I was privy to revisiting what many consider one of the greatest comebacks stories of all time. Thank you Golf Channel! Tiger Woods earned his fifth green jacket, his fifteenth Major title and reminded sports fans, once again why he did revolutionize the game.

As I watched in review, I thought Is any individual athlete more iconic? From his name to his trade mark red and black on Sunday, Woods made golf much more emotional and athletic. Due to physical (and I would argue personal/ mental) health complications, Woods did not know if he would ever play golf at an elite level again. Golf fans caught wind that he might when he won the TOUR Championship for his 80th victory on the PGA TOUR. He took winning to the next level when he won the 2019 Masters by finishing 13 under par.

Happy 44th, Eldrick Tont "Tiger" Woods
Mullin admits he has no fashion sense whatsoever—which explains
why I had no reaction to his shirt being untucked in this photo
#17 Chris Mullin
Although it was an honor and a privilege meeting Coach Lou Holtz this year, meeting Chris Mullin trumped, yes even the 30 minute car ride

In my classroom hangs a poster that lists 17 important facts about Mully. Impressive information. Equally valuable are 17 OTHER things you ought to know about the left-handed shooting guard out of Brooklyn who wore #17 in honor of his boyhood hero, John Havlicek. I created this list after I heard him speak at KNBR's Dinner with a Legend. I will keep these recollections brief, but you'll get the point.
  1. During his third season in the NBA, Mullin admitted to his coach, Don Nelson that he had a problem with alcohol. He entered into rehab in late 1987 and stayed at the facility in Los Angeles until early 1988.  
  2. Mullin spoke candidly that he struggled with anxiety about returning to the game post rehab. He wasn't sure how much the time away from the game would set him back.
  3. The good news is that the mental clarity he gained from sobriety improved his focus on the court.
  4. Void of alcohol left a restless energy, hence his commitment to fitness—running, cycling, stair master, etc. Today that includes golf! 
  5. Back in those days, NBA teams flew commercial. Mully ran into his team in the Oakland airport as he returned from rehab and they were flying out for a road game. This interaction angered, annoyed and yet motivated him to get back with the team and compete again.
  6. The change post-rehab showed on the court right away. I've always thought nature has a way of teaching this to use. In pruning a rose bush, one must cut back to ensure more growth.
  7. One of the reasons he loves basketball is that the game allows you to "show off" what you've been working on, quickly
  8. The first flap top is a sign of his sobriety.
  9. His daily reprieve: turn it over to a higher power
  10. Mully concedes that the athletes he grew up playing against on the streets of Brooklyn
 were MUCH better athletes than he ever was. In other words: surround yourself with the best to improve.
  11. Believes players ought to hang out more often for one-on-one play
  12. Believes Steph might be the best shooter of all time—certainly with the three point shot. His floaters and shots off the dribble are second to none
  13. Klay Thompson is a close second
  14. Boogate at Oracle Arena didn't take away from the ceremony in which the Warriors retired Mullin's jersey. In fact, felt badly for Joe Lacob.
  15. He spoke extensively about his friendship with his former teammate Manute Bol. His brother had been friends with Manute first, which is how they were connected.
  16. Considers former NBA player and now analyst Brent Barry a good friend. Barry has shared that the reason he has worn #17 is because of Chris Mullin
  17. Admits that when he looks up and sees his jersey hanging from the rafters, it's pretty cool. It is.
Thomas Merton has said "to be a saint is to be myself." Though this idea is lofty and those words are optimistic, an evening with Chris Mullin helped me understand he might be right.
#18 LeBron James
Named as AP's best male athlete of the decade, LeBron is celebrating his 35th birthday today—and he has yet to slow down. This two-time Sportsperson of the Year (Sports Illustrated) has won every major award as an individual and helped his teams to three titles.

The reason I would like to profile James is because he is the subject of many, many stories/articles/books and more. However, when I saw he is also the subject of "TheSkimm" Audio Notes section, I thought there was nothing they could say that I didn't already know. I was wrong.

I recommend listening to this 8 minute and 52 second upshot. Yes, you will learn
  • how he grew up
  • how he got into basketball
  • all about his rep in the NBA
but most importantly, I don't know that you will ever watch him play basketball or a wide receiver or  tight end in quite the same way again. 

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