For a man who has spent a better part of his life being involved with Basketball, former NBA player Sam Vincent is a shining example of how “when life throws you a curveball, you got to find a way to score a basket.”
A career that has included winning the NBA Championship for Boston Celtics, being crowned the first ever Mr. Basketball at just 18 years of age and then leading the Nigerian women’s basketball team to an Olympic victory, Sam has over the years gathered a lot experience in playing, teaching and managing basketball. On his recent visit to Kuwait, as part of the Discover America Week, Sam talks to Studentalk about his life and the game.
Read on for the full interview…
Studentalk (ST): What does basketball mean to you?
Sam: It would not be wrong to say that basketball has played the role of a teacher in my life. It has shaped me as the person I am today. My communication skills, work ethic, leadership skills everything roots from the game. It has been both my career and my retirement.
ST: What in your opinion is your greatest achievement in the game?
Sam: If I were to single out one achievement then I think winning Mr. Basketball would definitely make the cut. It was the first time they recorded that award and I think winning it gave me greater confidence to surge forward. It was a great motivator, and had a lot of influence on how I shaped myself as a player. Every game shapes you, and this award was my first one, and in being so, also the most special one.
ST: You are one of the only four people in history to have played with Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. What is that like?
Sam: Sharing the court with what I believe are three of the best players to have ever played in the NBA was exhilarating. The way they handled the game was a lesson in itself. In fact many of the youth development programs that I work on now and the coaching programs that I am a part of, a lot of what I teach is what I learned from those three stalwarts of the game.
ST: Looking back what do you think you could have done differently?
Sam: I think I was a little selfish as a player. I was young and enthusiastic and wanted to be on the court all the time. Sometimes you have to put your team before you. Having said that, I think I learned that as I matured in my career.
The other thing I wish I had embraced sooner is diplomacy. I believe in standing up for what’s right but at the same time one has to learn that there are many ways of proving your point. Standing up and stating your opinion is not the only way, and sometimes it can be detrimental to your career.
ST: What according to you are the three most important qualities a sports person should possess?
Sam: Respect for your coaches, teammates and people you come in contact with.
Discipline because it will determine how one learns and grows.
Work Ethic because it will help one achieve their goals.
ST: What does being a Sports Ambassador and representing your country here in Kuwait and elsewhere in the world mean to you?
Sam: I think first of all, to be here representing the US during the DISCOVER AMERICA WEEK is a great honor and a responsibility that I do not take lightly. To have the opportunity share some of things that I have learned and succeeded in, over the here, in Kuwait and in GCC is very special for me. My experience is more valuable if I am able to help someone learn from it.
I think basket ball is a big part of our culture and a large part of the lives of our youth today and how they view the game and the doors it can open for them from collegiate opportunities to playing professionally is important for them to understand. Being an ambassador of any kind also means guiding people on how they can reach out for their dreams and achieve the goal
s they have set for themselves.
ST: What is your favorite thing about the sport?
Sam: I enjoy the game immensely. Playing the game of course is a lot of fun but the camaraderie you share with your team mates is also a very special bond. As a coach seeing my team grow and develop, the entire journey from the first practice to the final trophy is very fulfilling. And now in this diplomatic role I get excited every time I see youngsters eager to play and prove themselves. Basketball isn’t just a game; to me it’s a lifestyle.
Sam is currently resides in the United States and is the National Basketball Retired Players Association VP of Membership – Player & Chapter Development in Houston.
*Studentalk would like to thank the US Embassy in Kuwait for making this interview happen.