The Winds of Fate
Once, Coach Wooden read me a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox that was a great encouragement to me. I don’t remember the occasion but I believe it was the following.
In 1975, fewer than two years into my ABA career, I suffered a knee injury while playing for the San Antonio Spurs. In warmups, I jumped and heard a snap in my left knee. As it turned out, about one-fifth of my knee cap split away from the rest. I finished the season and then traveled to Inglewood, California, to have the Lakers doctor perform surgery. Surgery went well, I was wheeled into the recovery room, and finally to my hospital room.
I went in and out of sleep. Once when I woke up, I saw two rather blurry faces. As my vision cleared, I recognized John Wooden and Bill Sharman. Sharman was coach of the Lakers at that time I believe. What a wonderful surprise.
Mr. Sharman handed me a book on basketball he and Coach Wooden had authored. It contained detailed explanations and illustration regarding the fundamentals of the game. It was signed by both of them. I still have it.
And then that’s when, I believe, Coach Wooden read me a portion of the poem, The Winds of Fate. He could see I was discouraged. Here I was, just a year or so into my career and I was facing a huge challenge. This was a serious injury and Coach knew it. He wanted me to know, my success for coming back was directly related to my attitude. I got the message. I came back. I love you, Coach Wooden.
The Winds of Fate
But to every man there openeth,
A high way and a low.
And every mind decideth,
The way his soul shall go.
One ship drives East while the other drives West,
By the self-same winds that blow.
‘Tis the set of the sails,
And not the gales,
That tells it where to go.
Like the winds of the sea,
Are the waves of fate,
As we journey along through life.
‘Tis the set of the soul,
That determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife.