“Big Game James” Worthy gives pep talk at Maranatha

WORTHY TALK: Former Los Angeles Lakers forward James Worthy
gave a motivational talk at Maranatha High School on Thursday.
Staff photo by Leo Jarzomb

By Keith Lair, SGVN

PASADENA – Everyone has a journey and people need to follow that path, Lakers broadcaster James Worthy told the Maranatha High School student body and teachers on Thursday morning.
“No matter where you’re from, one thing we share in common is that you cannot escape the journey along the way,” Worthy said. “It is your journey that you have to your platform.”
Worthy, selected as one of the 50 greatest players in the NBA, was the speaker at the school’s weekly assemblies. He was invited, athletic director Brian DeHaan said, by a Maranatha president.
That platform, the 6-foot, 9-inch 51-year-old said, is to use talents wisely and to give back.
“Using your talents and your responsibility and to not say, `Look at me; I’m the best,”‘ he said. “Your responsibility is to look at someone with humility and passion and to bring that person up to your level.
“It’s how you bring a teammate who may not be a great shooter up to your talent. It’s what teachers do day in and day out. They use their talent to fill your mind with knowledge and decision-making powers.”

After speaking in front of the student body, Worthy met with the school’s girls and boys basketball programs for a question-and-answer and photo session.
“My journey from a small-town and a small illiterate public school and my journey through sports allowed me to be here,” he said. “You’re already starting that journey and that journey starts your platform.”
Worthy won an NCAA title at North Carolina and then won three NBA championships with the Lakers in 12 seasons.
He said education was the foundation for that journey, and sports should be placed no higher than second or third in a person’s life.
That’s because pro athletes, he said, typically have short careers. He said the chances of being an astronaut is greater than being a pro athlete.
“There are a thousand Michael Jordans out there,” he said. “There are thousand Kobe Bryants out there. I’ve seen them. There are only 300-something slots in the NBA. There are not enough slots, but there is plenty of talent.”
Which, he said, means that education is the key to reaching a person’s platform.
He cited an NBA Player’s Association figure that 57 percent of NBA players are in financial arrears within two years of leaving the league.
“I know too many players who have made a lot of money and have nothing to show for it,” he said. “They can’t read a contract, they can’t balance a checkbook. They have nothing to fall back on. Sports is such a short career and there is no focus on education.
“Being a professional athlete is like a bonus. But you always have to prepare. You have to have two plans, a primary and a backup.”
Poor grades as an eighth-grader, his mother and a broken ankle his freshman year at North Carolina turned him toward education, he said.
“What a great opportunity that sports provides for you,” he said. “You learn how to be a team; you have to do that in the corporate office. You learn how to recognize each other’s talents; the same thing you do in the corporate office.”

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