Bernardo M. Villegas
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Values Formation Through Sports Icons (Part 1)

          Instead of worrying about the values of the so-called millennials, we should be more concerned about the bad examples being given to them by the two previous generations, Generation X and the Baby Boomers.  It is these generations that produced the corrupt politicians, police people, and business moguls who are the wrong role models for those born after 1982 who constitute Generation Y or the Millennials.  That is why I am so glad that in recent times, we have been fortunate to have witnessed some sports icons who have the right human virtues and values that can be emulated by their fellow millennials.

         Let me start with U.S. basketball star Stephen Curry, who together with his teammate in the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant, helped their team to regain the N.B.A. championship for 2017.  Many players or analysts have called Curry the greatest shooter in N.B.A. history.  In 2014- 2015, Curry obtained the N.B.A. Most Valuable Player Award and led the Warriors to their first championship since 1975.  The following season, he became the first player in N.B.A. history to be elected MVP by a unanimous vote.  Stephen is the son of Dell Curry who played for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Steph has a brother who also plays for a leading team in the N.B.A.  I was quite impressed with the values he expressed in the speech he delivered when he was awarded the MVP in 2014-2105.  He was very outspoken about his Christian faith, unabashedly proclaiming “People should know who I represent and why I am who I am, and that is because of my Lord and Saviour.”  He said that the reason that he pounds his chest and points up is that he has a “heart of God” and as a reminder that he plays for God. 

         In that same speech, he spoke about the value of strong family ties.  With tears in his eyes, he thanked his father and mother for the way they brought him and his brother up.  He also thanked his wife Ayesha, whom he met in church, for all the sacrifices she made for his career.  In a society like the U.S. where family values are under constant attack, it was very impressive to listen to a sports icon talking about the value of close family ties and marital fidelity.  Furthermore, he has not forgotten his responsibility to society.  In 2012, Curry started donating three insecticide-treated mosquito nets for every three-pointer he made to the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign to control malaria.

         Then there is Kevin Durant, the highest pointer in the last N.B.A. finals in which the Warriors triumphed over the Cavaliers.   Kevin is also a devoted Christian and like Stephen Curry wears tattoos all over his body depicting Christian symbols and biblical sayings.  In the speech he gave when he received the 2013-2014 Kia NBA MVP award, he showed even more emotions than Stephen Curry and sobbed his way throughout the speech especially when he referred to the way his mother single-handedly brought him and his brother Tony up.  He thanked her for loving him unconditionally and for caring for him and his brother Tony as a single parent, keeping them off the streets.  There was not a single dry eye in the audience when he mentioned that his mother would often go to bed hungry just to make sure that her two children were well fed.  Kevin was very explicit in saying that there is more to life than basketball and that family is the most important of all.  He told his brother that he loved him very much and that he prayed for him every night.  He is very close to his mother, Wanda, detailed in the lifetime movie “The Real MVP:  the Wanda Pratt Story.”  Durant goes to the chapel before every game to pray.  He, too, has a good number of philantrophic causes such as the American Red Cross.

         Then there is another basketball great, LeBron James, who showed admirable humility and sportsmanship during the final Game 5 in the last N.B.A. finals.  In  an article by Billy Witz that appeared in the International New York Times (June 15, 2017) entitled “Making Peace with Defeat,” James was described as follows:  “LeBron James stood under the basket and looked up oblivious of the action going on behind him. Then, as the finality began to sink in that there would be a new champion, he pivoted and walked purposefully toward the other end of the court, making a beeline for Kevin Durant, a rare equal whom he had spent much of these finals battling.  In that moment when they embraced, James might have seen something of himself in Durant, another transcendent talent who had to endure years of frustration and a change of scenery, before earning the validation that comes with a title. A while later, James acknowledged something else—a player in Durant and a team in the Golden State Warriors, who not only buzz-sawed through his Cleveland Cavaliers in five games,…but who may not be abdicating any time soon.”  Indeed, the Warriors have very young players, all millennials:  Durant is 28; Curry is 29, Klay Thomson and Draymond Green are 27.  Only Andre Iguodala, 33 (still a millennial), might be considered on the backside of his prime, though he hardly showed it in the finals, with 20 points that included a thunderous dunk.  Actually, even LeBron James at 32 years is also a millennial.  I am so glad that U.S. basketball, with which our youth are literally obsessed, has this galaxy of stars who  were all born after 1982 and some of whom are paragons of some of the virtues that we want our own millennials to possess.  (To be continued).