Keeping it Positive with Former NBA Player and Coach Avery Johnson
I’ve had the opportunity to feature Dribble to Stop Diabetes NBA and WNBA campaign ambassadors previously, and today I’m excited to introduce you to another, Avery Johnson. Along with his work as a former NBA player and coach, Avery is also an inspiring public speaker who challenges people to reach their potential.
From a young age, Avery learned the power of positive reinforcement. “I grew up in the inner city of New Orleans, which was drug-infested and very depressed,” he explained. “I didn’t have any examples in my family of anybody that graduated from college and then went on to do great things. Fortunately, even though my parents had only a sixth grade education, they had what I call doctorate degrees in love and discipline. When others were saying, ‘You can’t,’ my parents were saying, ‘You can.’”
That motivation led five-foot-eleven Avery to be one of two players under six feet tall who played in more than 1,000 NBA games over a 16-year career. “I didn’t come from a major Division I college,” he said. “I was probably the last person expected to lead a team to a championship. I kept going.”
As a young basketball player in college, Avery was inspired by his coach and mentor, who is also one of Avery’s personal connections to diabetes. “He’s lived with diabetes all of his adult life,” said Avery. “I’ve seen him go through different challenges with his health because of diabetes. But now he’s 76 years old and walks three to five miles on the treadmill every day. With the combination of treatment, exercise and healthy living, he’s been able to maintain a really good lifestyle.”
His coach’s experience is part of what motivated Avery to join the Dribble to Stop Diabetes campaign in 2012. “It was important to me to become involved because every 17 seconds, someone is diagnosed with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. That’s an alarming rate,” he said. “We got 20-second time-outs in the NBA; it goes pretty fast. That’s why I wanted to become an ambassador, to make people aware of how prevalent the condition is. I think it’s such an essential program.”
As a coach Avery served as a source of inspiration for his players. “I had to be a person of strong character, and demonstrate personal integrity and honesty. That’s what players respect most,” he said. “I also learned to be consistent in my communication. I have my intense voice, my teaching voice, my loving voice, my angry voice and I use them in different situations. In the end, you have to show the players that you care more about them than you care about winning.”
Avery also uses his motivational talents as an inspirational speaker. “I feel that I have a gift to motivate and challenge people in different walks of life,” he explained. “I may speak to a high school student who needs to improve academically or understand challenges of life, or I may speak to a college basketball coaching staff that wants to learn about management and leadership. I feel comfortable in either environment and I really love doing it.”
The message Avery shared at Dribble to Stop Diabetes events was similar to what he shares with teams during motivational speeches before important games. “I tell them, ‘You’re special. Because you are special, it’s important that you don’t give up. You have to help yourself. That’s what special people do.’”
I am so inspired by all the things Avery has accomplished and that he shares so much of himself with others. My thanks to him for sharing his story and bringing his motivational messages to the Dribble to Stop Diabetes campaign and many others.
All the best,
Disclosures: Avery Johnson was a paid Campaign Ambassador for Dribble to Stop Diabetes. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.
The Dribble to Stop Diabetes campaign is a Sanofi US Diabetes partnership with the NBA, NBA D-League, WNBA and the American Diabetes Association.