Ville Magazine l Insider Access for City Lifestyle Mar/Apr 2016 / People Issue - Page 23
Eight great people of Seattle
making their mark by giving their
talents and vision to the city.
Interviewed by: Charity Mainville
Out of all that you have been honored for, which You learn a lot as you go on in life. I was very
recognition is your proudest?
fortunate to be influenced by a lot of good
Certainly being the first to bring a
championship title in basketball to Seattle was
a big milestone. Having the opportunity to
represent our country in the Olympic Games
as a coach was an incredible experience and
honor. But the achievement I am the proudest
of is the work my foundation and all the people
involved in it. I feel strongly that when we are
in a position to give back to the community
and make it a better place, we must do so.
people, and I learned that life’s experiences
allow you to make life adjustments. I was
absorbing experiences at every turn in my
life and shaping my future along the way. For
example, I missed my second year of pro-ball
because I went into active duty as a second
lieutenant. These experiences all helped me
to become a leader on and off the court.
I guess you could say that it was a path I took as
opportunities were presented. Many people
don’t know this, but I grew up playing several
sports as a kid and even played more hockey
and baseball before ever trying basketball.
Eventually I started playing more and more
basketball, never once thinking I would play
professionally. I learned that it came naturally
to me, and by the time I was drafted #1 by
the St. Louis Hawks I still had yet to see a live
pro game. After seeing a game that year, I was
hooked and inspired. I was determined to be
the best I could be in the sport.
It wasn’t so much being looked down on,
as it was more about being made to feel
uncomfortable. I believe that young people
have a keen sense of knowing when those
around them are being disingenuous and
inauthentic. I wanted to help provide youth
with the opportunity to feel valued, safe,
and supported, especially when it came
to healthcare. For me it wasn’t only about
providing access to affordable healthcare, but
that the care would be provided to all with
love, understanding, and kindness.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure that I could do
it. It took time and patience. I started to see
growth in the dynamic between me and the
other players. I think it came easier for me at
the time since I was a point guard. Point guards
are really the quarterbacks of basketball. It
was also a different time back then; I don’t
think you could do that today.
over 50 years ago when I met Dr. Blanche
Lavizzo, a strong and passionate black
American physician who was the clinic’s very
first medical director. Her legacy inspired the
clinic’s motto of “Quality care with dignity.”
The clinic is so special in a way that it makes
the people in the community feel respected,
comfortable, and safe. I made a promise to
always dedicate resources to the OBCC.
You faced hardships growing up and your mother
struggled to raise you and your siblings. You were
Was playing basketball your dream or a path you brought to free healthcare clinics where you felt
looked down upon. Why did you feel that way?
took as opportunities were presented to you?
Photo: Lenny Wilkens Foundation
LENNY WILKENS IS A LEGEND IN THE
PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL LEAGUE
WITH MULTIPLE AWARDS INCLUDING THE
NAISMITH MEMORIAL BASKETBALL HALL
OF FAME INDUCTEE THREE TIMES, TWOTIME OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL WINNER,
AND CHUCK DALY LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT
Originally from Brooklyn, Lenny
found his way to Seattle as a player
and coach for the previous Seattle
basketball team, the Super Sonics.
Now settled in Seattle, he continues
to make an impact with his foundation
that funds organizations that deliver
healthcare and education services to
young people while honoring their
dignity and sense of self-respect.
His foundation has raised over $6
million helping families in the Pacific
You founded the Lenny Wilkens Foundation with
In 1969, you were asked to be a player – coach for your first contribution to the Odessa Brown Clinic in
the Seattle Super Sonics. How would you describe 1970. Why is this clinic most important to you?
the experience of playing both at the same time?
I was first drawn to the Odessa Brown Clinic
You grew up in Brooklyn, but have settled in Seattle.
What made you decide to reside here?
What are the future goals of the foundation?
At the beginning, I always thought I would
settle back on the East coast. We love New
England, but we fell in love with the Pacific
Northwest, too. It’s so similar to New England
in a lot of ways, all the wilderness, greenery.
Eventually, we raised our children here and
now have grandchildren in the area. We can’t
imagine ever leaving.
I will always support the OBCC. It has become
so much of who I am and the legacy I want
to leave for the youth of today and for years
to come. But certainly when we have an
opportunity to support others in a positive
way, especially when it helps young people,
we will be there, too. I have always said that
young people are tomorrow’s doctors, lawyers,
politicians, and teachers. It is our duty to help
What are some of your life experiences that have
them succeed in every way.
helped you to become the leader you are today?
PEOPLE ISSUE l VILLE l 23