Ville Magazine l Insider Access for City Lifestyle Mar/Apr 2016 / People Issue - Page 23

THEGREAT 8 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 THE LEGEND 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 AWARD. 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 Northwest. 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