FORT TOTTEN, N.D. — Darryl Dawkins and Spud Webb had the chips stacked against them from an early age.
But, instead of allowing their circumstances to hold them back, they both went about pursuing their dreams of playing in the National Basketball Association.
The two, along with A.C. Green, shared some of the lessons they learned while speaking at the annual Parents and Students Fair April 20 at Four Winds High School.
Dawkins, one of 11 children, stressed the importance of staying in school and staying active during his speech to a gathering of more than 100 students and area residents at the school.
“We can all be whatever we want to be,” said Dawkins, the first high school player to jump directly to the NBA when the Philadelphia 76ers signed him in 1975 after Dawkins ignored his prep coach’s insistence to enroll and play basketball at either Kentucky or Florida.
“But, no matter what you choose to do with your career, you must give back,” Dawkins added. “There will always be a number of people who have helped you along the way. You have to remember them and whoever your god is, you have to believe.”
Webb, meanwhile, became a cultural icon, of sorts, during his NBA career.
After being overlooked by most colleges following his graduation from high school because of his height, the five-foot, seven-inch Webb helped his Midland Junior College team to a national championship before getting a chance to play at North Carolina State under legendary coach Jim Valvano, whose impassioned speech at the ESPYs remains one of the most treasured moments in television history.
“I learned everything from (Valvano),” Webb said. “He was a coach and he was a father figure and was the type of person any player would want to play for.
“It is about as good as it gets,” added Webb of Valvano’s memorable words just weeks before succumbing to cancer. “It was all about keeping hope alive.”
Webb stressed the importance of a clean and healthy lifestyle as being instrumental to his climb to pro basketball and his Slam Dunk championship in 1986 over Michael Jordan and Dominque Wilkins.
“I’ve never had a beer in my life,” said Webb, who is now the president of operations for the Dallas Mavericks. “I knew I couldn’t indulge if I was to succeed in the NBA ... and I never doubted myself that I would succeed in the NBA.
Green, meanwhile, played collegiately at Oregon State before embarking on a 16-year career with the Lakers, Phoenix, Dallas and Miami.
Green played alongside legendary Kareem Abdul Jabbar during the early part of his career after coming out of OSU as the 23rd overall pick in the 1985 draft.
Page 2 of 2 - “He simply led by example ... you couldn’t ask for a better leader,” Green said of the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. “The way he prepared was simply perfect.”
Dawkins, like Webb and Green, also benefitted early on his career learning from a legend of his sport.
Julius Erving was in his heyday with the 76ers when Dawkins made history when joining the Philadelphia team.
“There is always a lesson to be learned from someone who has been there before you,” said Dawkins, who said the biggest influence in his early years in the league was Bobby Jones.
“He really meant a lot to me,” Dawkins said. “He was the first Christian I met when getting to the league and he really opened my eyes and showed me a lot different things and ways to conduct yourself.”
“We all face challenges in our lives,” Dawkins told the crowd. “But, we must remember that someone has made an impact on you and has set a challenge for you to succeed at something.”
“We believe in you and we know there is always hope,” Green added.