Find Yourself a Dream

Find Yourself a Dream

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Be The Best You Can Be

Find Yourself a Dream

One’s dreams are an index to one’s greatness.

~Zadok Rabinowitz

“Never let it be said that you can run faster than you can read, or that you can jump higher than your grade point average.”

I was the last person in my family to be born on a plantation. We were very poor, and I used to work in the fields picking cotton for $2 to $3 a day. As a young man, I dreamt about becoming a great public speaker, even though I suffered from a severe stuttering disability. Though I could barely put two words together, let alone speak a full sentence, I was able to overcome those handicaps because I had a dream.

I was raised by my grandmother, Ella Mae Hunter. She instilled in me the belief that anything was possible. She gave me so much love and so much confidence, and she always had words of wisdom for me. She taught me that nothing in life was free; that if you wanted anything in life, you had to earn it, and you should want to earn it. She made me do my lessons. She told me I had to go to college. And she let me play sports.

She taught me to never give up, to find myself a dream, to hold on to it, and to never let go. Naturally, I wanted to make my grandmother proud of me and I wanted to get an education so that I could get a good job. Fortunately, basketball enabled me to realize that dream. Every time the other kids would make fun of me because I couldn’t speak, I would practice even harder. In a way, my speaking disability was a blessing in disguise.

I received a scholarship to Southern University, where I averaged thirty-one points and eighteen rebounds a game, I was a two time All-American and even played against the Russian National Team, and I was the first black player to make the All South team. I was drafted by the Cincinnati Royals in 1965 where Oscar Robertson was my mentor. My first year’s salary was $8,000 and my signing bonus was $200 cash! (My, how times have changed!)

In those days the NBA was made up of only nine teams, and there was a limit to how many blacks could be on a roster. After a short time with the Royals and the Milwaukee Bucks, I was traded to the Chicago Bulls, where I went on to lead the team in scoring for seven straight seasons with a total of 12,623 points. I was an NBA All-Star in 1971, 1972, and 1973… All-NBA Second Team 1970-71, and 1971-72… NBA All-Defensive Second Team 1971-72, 1973-74, and 1974-75. Many of these team records were only finally surpassed by Michael Jordan. Of course, if they had the three-point line when I played, Michael might still be chasing me! My jersey, #10, was officially retired on January 14, 1994.

Even though I had a stellar career with the Chicago Bulls, I kept my stuttering disability a secret from my fans. Instead, I decided to do my talking on the basketball court. But when my career ended early due to a back injury, I found that none of my records meant anything when it came to getting a job. Because I could not put two words together without stuttering, no one would hire me. In spite of a degree in food and nutrition, in spite of all my athletic achievements and records, I had to start at the bottom, earning $4.45 per hour as a dishwasher and busboy at Nordstrom’s in Seattle.

I could have given up then, but I remembered what my grandmother told me. She said, “Robert Earl, everybody has a handicap; everybody has a disability. What you’ve got to do is have a dream, and hold on to it. It’s not how many times you get knocked down. It’s whether you can get up or not that matters.” So I decided to become the best dishwasher, the best busboy in the world. I wasn’t going to let anything keep me from reaching my goals.

After a while, the owners of the company came to me and told me that they had noticed my hard work, and that if I would be willing to go to a speech therapist, they would pay for it. After several years of intensive therapy I was able to move up in the company and I eventually became their corporate spokesman.

Today, as Director of Community Affairs for the Chicago Bulls, I make over three hundred appearances each year, and I speak to over 250,000 young people about the importance of staying in school, getting an education, perseverance over adversity, and achieving one’s dreams. I am considered one of the top motivational speakers in the sports field in the country. After forty-five years of being unable to speak, my dream has finally come true.

Today, when people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them, “I talk.”

~Bob Love, former Chicago Bulls star

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