John Wooden: Confucius of the Court | The Golden Sombrero Baseball Blog | MLB, Fantasy, College & High School Baseball News

John Wooden: Confucius of the Court

Legendary college hoops coach John Wooden passed away last Friday, June 4.  The renowned strategist and mentor, best known for his 10 titles in 12 seasons at UCLA, was ninety nine years young.  Wooden was revered by those who played under his tutelage, remembered fondly as a strict disciplinarian and master motivator.  He accumulated a vast amount of wisdom throughout his years, eventually earning the nickname the Wizard of Westwood.  Since his death many articles have been written sharing some of his greatest nuggets of knowledge.  The old man really was a modern day Confucius, and his words will surely be passed down for generations to come.  While reflecting on some of these axioms, it occurred to me that many could be useful in either describing or advising some of our greatest sports heroes.  So call me Big Pun, because what we’ve got here is a list of proverbs from Mr. Wooden himself dedicated to some of sport’s biggest stars


For one of MLB’s greatest inspirations, pitcher Jim Abbott:

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

For the Kid, Ken Griffey, Jr.:

“It isn’t what you do, but how you do it.”

For Mr. Lollygagger, Hanley Ramirez:

“Sports do not build character. They reveal it.”

For Mr. Angry Old Man, Roger Clemens:

“Be prepared and be honest.”

For baseball’s answer to Ron Artest, Milton Bradley:

“You can’t let praise or criticism get to you, it’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.”

For baseball’s biggest little man, Wee Willie Keeler:

“It’s not how big you are, it’s how big you play”


For physical freak/cry baby/underachiever Lebron James:

“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have   accomplished with your ability.”

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”

“If you are not intent about what you are doing, you aren’t able to resist the temptation to do something else that might be more fun at the moment.”

For Mr. I’m-Old-And-Play-Hard-In-The-First-Quarter-But-Need-to-Retire, Shaq:

“It’s not so important who starts the game but who finishes it.”

For the guy who needs to stop and take a breath before acting, former Golden State Warriors coach PJ Carlesimo:

“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”

For one of the biggest wasted talents in sports history, Tracy McGrady:

“Ability is a poor man’s wealth”

“A player who makes a team great is much more valuable than a great player.”

For long-time loser, pick-and-roll devotee, Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan:

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”

For the Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant:

Adversity is the state in which man mostly easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.”

For one of the greatest displays of basketball teamwork, 2004 NBA Champion Detroit Pistons:

“It is amazing how much can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit.”  (

For one of the toughest little white guys out there, despite his defensive woes, Steve Nash:

“Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

“There is absolutely no excuse for a good offensive man to not be a good defensive man. You have to be committed to it.”

For the guy who never needed to practice, Allen Iverson:

“Cervantes said the journey’s better than the end. Practices, to me, were the journey.”

And, for a whole bevy of NBA players/criminals:

“What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player”


For Mr. All-American D-Bag, Tom Brady:

“The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.”

For Mr. I’m So Thankful to be Allowed to Practice with the Team Again, Ben Roethlisberger:

“I always told my players that our team condition depended on two factors: how hard they worked on the floor during practice and how well they behaved between practices.”

For the Master of Mediocrity, Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher:

“Never mistake activity for achievement.”

For the man who finally got what he deserved, OJ Simpson:

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

For the man with the sickest moves ever, Barry Sanders:

“Quickness under control is the most valuable physical aspect of any sport.”

Thanks for everything you taught us, coach.  We’ll never forget your lessons.  And one more quote for all of us to be inspired by:

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

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