by Dave Spahn / @davespahn
Every year after the conclusion of the Final Four, we’re left to wonder: “What do we do now?” Every storyline from Kevin Ware’s gruesome injury (for the sake of the food you ate, I won’t link the video) to the illness of Luke Hancock’s father gained national media attention, built up the anticipation to crowning of an new NCAA Champion. But this season, one off-the-court story seemed to slip through the cracks.
On Sunday, the day before the National Championship game, former college basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led a host of over 3,000 children to dribble for a mile around the Georgia World Congress Center. Partnered with Powerade, Abdul-Jabbar sought to bring a dose of “healthy living” to Atlanta. His message combined with Powerade’s was simple: Everyone, not just high-level athletes, need to be health conscious.
“I think the Powerade message is really something I can get behind,” Abdul-Jabbar stated. “They set a good example of nutrition. The things you put in your body are a key aspect of athletics that often gets overlooked. You can’t burn cardboard and expect a race flow.”
With all the hustle and bustle involved with the Final Four, Abdul-Jabbar found time to give back to the community and promote a vision that means a lot to him, something rarely done during hectic times. He did, however, find time to watch the Elite 8 games leading up to his event and saw the Ware injury. Although Ware’s injury is an aberration in terms of its gruesome nature, it reiterates the importance of staying healthy and being thankful for every day you can wake up and walk around.
“His injury was absolutely horrific,” said Abdul-Jabbar. “I was watching the game, and saw it in real time. I saw what happened with his leg; oh my goodness. It’s unbelievable. The only other thing I’ve ever seen like that was when Joe Theisman got hurt in the playoffs.”
Abdul-Jabbar’s event caused a local buzz and excited the local Atlanta youth. Not only did the southern youngsters get to take in an exciting few days of college basketball’s finest, they also got to burn some energy running around with a name synonymous with basketball success. For Abdul-Jabbar, the NCAA Tournament was a perfect platform to help promote his message.
“Any platform that has to do with kids going to college and continuing their education is a great platform,” explained Abdul-Jabbar. “When you show kids that college is an important step, you can promote another positive message.”
While many are out enjoying the weekend festivities and partaking in various Final Four activities, Abdul-Jabbar was trying to make a difference in the lives of America’s youth. One by one, each child darted across the Georgia World Convention Center on their mile-long quest, but no child failed to stop and at least take a glance at the giant man who set up the day’s action.
Kareem could do nothing but smile. Why not? His mission was well under way. He may not have reached every child in America, but the ones he did reach took in his message loud and clear. For the kids participating, the National Championship was just a game in the distance for the duration of that one-mile run. They wanted to run around with the legend from Westwood, and he sure wanted to run around with them too.