When I was a pipsqueak, switching sports with the seasons, my guys were Jack Nicklaus, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and later, Magic “Earvin” Johnson.
Now my favorite superstars are Dave Gordon, Lance Matheson, and Dan Mathis.
It’s kinda hard to believe Kareem is 64 now. It seems like yesterday I was in college, squatting in front of our fuzzy t.v. in a Palms apartment, as Mark Eaton watched helplessly as Kareem’s “most points in NBA history” setting baseline skyhook hit nothing but net.
Kareem has always been cerebral, aloof, and apparently, not too personable.
Last week, he said he felt slighted by the Lakers since they hadn’t built a statue for him yet out in front of LA’s Staples Center. That complaint could convince me to never erect a statue, but after digging a little bit into the context, I realized Kareem, just like all of us at times, feels unappreciated.
If Kareem felt appreciated by the Lakers, I doubt he’d sweat the statue. The Lakers in essence have said it’s tough to appreciate Kareem, given his aloof, prickly personality. He’s made his own bed.
Some of my co-workers don’t feel fully appreciated by others at work. Some of my friends don’t feel fully appreciated by their partners. Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t feel fully appreciated by Barack Obama. Maria Shriver feels unappreciated. I don’t like that I feel unappreciated at times.
I wish I was more self sufficient when it comes to feeling appreciated.
But the truth of the matter is I’d like a statue too. A couple of ’em. One for three decades of conscientious teaching. Another for three months of extra cooking and cleaning while the galpal fights plantar fasciitis. And another for Friday’s lawn work.
Maturity is one’s ability to show appreciation for others without worrying about it being returned in equal measure. The challenge is to switch from “Woe am I, so unappreciated” to “I resolve to out-appreciate you.”
Ever deepening selflessness, characterized by ever increasing appreciation for others, is a key ingredient of a life well lived.