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Renaissance Men (Legends Of Pauley)

Thought this would be a great followup to Tydides's post on Bruins and Lakers yesterday. Over here at BN one of the underlying message behind all of our discussions wrt to regal athletic programs of our alma mater is how incredibly special it feels to be a Bruin and a graduate of (as CRN says often) the greatest university in America.

Well on a day when the LA Times has an article intertwining the jewel of the NBA and the greatest college basketball program in America, let's share the stories of two Pauley legends (from the Wooden and post-Wooden era) who are offering up timeless reminders about how being a UCLA athlete entail lot more than just greatness in the athletic arena.

Let's start with the Big Fella. If you don't know by now, take note. Kareem has a new book out. It's his sixth one entitled, "On The Shoulder Of Giants," which is a book about Harlem Rens, an African American basketball team from the 1980s, which Kareem uses to highlight the African Americans today. WWL's recently highlighted the book in it's E-Ticket which posted audio excerpts of his book here. The Big Fella also recently talked about the issue of Harlem Renaissance in @ Iolani High School (Hawaii):

He also recently talked about his book with the LA Time's Bill Dwyer and guess where his inspiration came from (unfortunately link no longer available):

"I loved school, loved UCLA," Abdul-Jabbar says. "I remember, in an English class taught by a Mr. Lindstrom, we were asked to do essays and he said he would read the best three to the entire class. He read the first two, then said he was going to read the best one, and it was mine.

"It was right then that I thought maybe I could do this, that maybe I had what it takes."

He also played at UCLA for John Wooden, always more English teacher than coach.

"We'd sit on the bus and talk about when to use a colon and when a semicolon," Abdul-Jabbar says. "We'd argue the difference between "like" and "as if."
For more on Kareem's book go here and the Big Fella now keeps a regular blog on the LA Times (now on our blogroll).

Kareem is not only Pauley legend exploring and figuring out ways to give back to his community.

Kareem will soon will have to make room for Post-Wooden era legends such as Baron Davis. Yes, the `paper of record' - the New York Times - profiled B-Diddy on Sunday, who is exploring his next endeavor after basketball that will enable him to "bring people together":
[P]erhaps the most striking thing about Mr. Davis's abode -- which sits across the Bay from Oakland, where he leads the Golden State Warriors as their starting point guard -- is the movies. They are everywhere: DVDs stacked on shelves on either side of his flag-size flat-screen, and littering side tables. Many of the titles are familiar -- "8 Mile," "Invincible," "The Cooler" -- and so are their stories: often telling of ordinary men overcoming odds to make it big.

That's no surprise, really. Mr. Davis grew up in South Central Los Angeles, became a star on the courts in high school and at the University of California, Los Angeles, and now makes $16.4 million a year. But while basketball was his ticket out, there is no doubt he sees movies as a ticket to somewhere else -- not just as a cinephile but as also as a producer and, even more surprising, as a critic.

"Once I realized I was going to become a professional basketball player, I started immediately thinking about things I wanted to do when I retired and had a second career," said Mr. Davis, 28, who sports a full black beard and has a 40-inch vertical leap. "And films are something that I enjoy. I think it brings people together, sends messages, makes people laugh and shares information. And movies are something that as a kid growing up were the one thing that you could always look forward to." [...]

[W]hile his all-time Top 10 list starts predictably enough with "The Godfather" at No. 1, his second choice -- "City of God," the 2003 Brazilian gang melodrama set in Rio's slums -- may not exactly be what you'd expect from your average jock. "I've seen that movie well over 150 times," he said. "I would watch it every day. I'd fall asleep watching it, wake up, and rewind it." Such obsession is not completely unexpected. Mr. Davis grew up during the 1980s crack epidemic in South Central, the middle child of two drug-addicted parents. Raised by his maternal grandparents, Mr. Davis said he watched countless friends get involved in drugs and gang life and then disappear.

"You see guys that are here one day and gone the next, and never coming back, either to jail or people getting shot," he said. "I remember there was one year that I had been to eight or nine funerals."
And once again guess where B-Diddy got his inspiration?
In 1997 Mr. Davis was recruited by U.C.L.A. and soon became a collegiate star. He doesn't claim to have taken many hard classes -- he mentioned the history of rock 'n' roll and musicology -- but he did take a class on Paul Robeson, who became an inspiration.

"He was an all-American football player, and an acclaimed actor," Mr. Davis said. "He was a Renaissance man. I was fascinated by the fact that he could travel in these different worlds and be successful in different worlds. And for me that was motivation for me to say, `Hey this is something that I could do.' "
Lets' not knock that class on musicology! I took it and I am sure there are many here on BN who were looking to pump up there GPAs for med, law or whatever grad. School they were going to, flooded that class (along with the class on dinosaurs and history of Italian Cinema). If you want to check out one Baron's recent work click here.

On a serious note though how cool it is to see our legends not just shining in the world of athletics, but applying lessons they learned in Westwood (in Barron's case all the lessons he learned in Westwood had to be from classroom because he was certainly not learning from anything from SL) to areas of life that are more important than games.

I don't think it's a coincidence ... but it has something to do with that magical four letters that were stitched in front of their jerseys while they were attending U.C.L.A.