Monday, August 4, 2014

My Story

My name is Swen Nater. I am known for being a UCLA, ABA, and NBA basketball player in the 70s and 80s.

I was born in The Netherlands in 1950. My parents divorced when I was three. My stepfather, mother, and little brother left for the US, leaving my sister and I in Holland, promising to bring us over in a couple of years. Six years went by where we lived in several foster homes and finally ended up in a home for orphans. We received letters from my mother and rarely saw our father.

In September 1959, we flew to the US through a miracle. Friends of my parents in Arizona asked the television show, "It Could Be You" (like This is Your Life), to bring us over and surprise our parents. They agreed and on a Hollywood stage, on national TV, our parents, who thought they were there because they got free tickets, were brought on stage. The curtain opened and they saw a miniature windmill in which my sister and I were hiding. On the cue, we leaped out and embraced our parents.

But my stepfather was angry because his plan was for us to never come to the US. So, for the next ten years, from age 9-19, he made life miserable for me. He beat me on the lower back regularly to where there were whelps, made me stand in the bathroom for hours with my hands up (the pain), didn't allow me to make friends, made me come home after school and get in my room, didn't allow anything but cold showers (and he would check because he took the lock off the bathroom door), and even though four of my molars were decayed to the root, didn't send me to a dentist. Some nights I just couldn't fall asleep.

I tried out for my high school basketball team but was cut. He would not have allowed me to play anyway. At Cypress Junior College, now 18, I tried out for the team and made it because I was six feet nine inches. I was not very good at all. The assistant coach had to sweet talk my stepfather into letting me on the team. It worked. At the end of the year I started to improve and got my chance. I was put in the game and I excelled. The next game, last of the season, I scored 20 points.

That summer, the assistant coach sweet talked my stepfather into letting him take me to LA to play in the Ghettos. We went almost every Saturday. At first, I got my butt kicked but soon they were asking me to be on their teams. I improve rapidly.

During pre-season the next year, my stepfather told to quit basketball and concentrate on my studies. The next mooring, I packed up extra clothes, left home, and moved in with a teammate and his family.

I was All-America that year, MVP of my team, and scored 26 points per game and pulled down over 16 rebounds per game, best in the nation. I was recruited by many top schools and chose UCLA where I played for John Wooden. However, I sat the bench for two years, behind the great Bill Walton.

I had two opportunities to prove I could play. The first was after my junior year at the Olympic trials. Coach Wooden asked the committee to let me play since Walton did not accept. As an unknown, I led the camp in scoring. The second was after I graduated at the Pizza Hut All Star game in Las Vegas. Again, Coach Wooden got me in because Bill didn't want to participate. I was MVP of the game which resulted in me being the 16th player picked int the first round of the NBA draft.

I chose the ABA however and was Rookie of the Year and second team All Star. I also led the league in field goal percentage. The second year I was also All Star and led the ABA in rebounds.

When the ABA merged with the NBA, I went to the Milwaukee Bucks where I shattered Kareem Abdul Jabbar's singe game rebound record (I had 33) and set an NBA record for defensive rebounds in a half (18) which still stands. I also became a member of the all-time 30/30 club, thirty or more points and thirty or more rebounds in the same game. There are only six members.

I was traded to the Buffalo Braves which moved to San Diego to become the Clippers. There I led the NBA in rebounds and set a franchise record for double doubles (points and rebounds) in a season.

I was traded to the Lakers where we played in the NBA finals against the Celtics. My last year, I went to Italy and played. It was a great experience.

When retired, I helped start an athletic program at San Diego Christian College. I was head coach and we won a national championship.

I went to work for Costco where I am now employed. I have written five books, mostly to do with teaching, which is my passion. You see, I was coached by John Wooden, the greatest teacher I have personally witnessed. Together with Ron Gallimore, I wrote You Haven't Taught Until They Have Learned, a study of his teaching methods.

I have recovered from what my stepfather did to me. My passion is to help children learn by helping teachers become great, like John Wooden.


PS please excuse typos. I just wanted to write this from the heart without going back to edit.

1 comment:

  1. Swen lived with our family for a little over a year. Most definitely, he was like my big brother (tall), but I remember his kindness to this nerdy kid, I remember all of us going to his graduation and later his wedding. And I remember how proud my folks were for Swen's accomplishments in spite of the difficulties of his childhood. My son played street ball and daughter played high school basketball, motivated by Swen's story. -- Mark Crossley (Cowan Family, Cypress, Calif).