Not impressive at all how you lived your life, Bob Knight.
Screaming at young men, psychologically traumatizing them, making them feel bad about themselves, and questioning their talent mental acumen, and ability to be disciplined and worth anything to society.
You yelled. You berated. You took advantage of your power as a winning basketball coach that your university valued and gave you leeway to act how you wanted to because you won.
You were mean, condescending, and cruel. You brought a whole lot of interpersonal negativity to the world that none of us needed nor should have been subjected to. You were the anti-role model. Congratulations for nothing.
It’s not OK to yell at college kids to play better basketball just like it’s not OK for bosses in businesses to yell at people who work for them. If they do, they get in trouble and are warned if they keep doing that they’ll be kicked out of the business. This is the right course of action.
Yet you didn’t abide by the same rules because you knew you had power because you won championships and those titles, you thought, were your ultimate free pass to belittle players and media members whenever you felt like it and without caring about the long-term psychological damage you could have, and often did, inflict on those people. Just imagine all the players who ended up on anti-depressants and sitting on psychiatrist couches for years and in some cases decades because you made them feel bad about themselves and their self-worth. Didn’t matter to you, though. Hurting people never bothered you and that’s the definition of a sociopath.
I had a high school basketball coach who acted quite a bit like you. He told me I was a starter only because he didn’t have anyone better — not because I was any good. I remember this 44 years later, so his attack is lodged deep in my psyche. He told me he wondered who dressed me in the morning, implying I couldn’t take care of myself, making me feel that, at 16 years old, I was still like a toddler.
He yelled at me constantly and made the game of basketball more like a psychological torture chamber than a sport to be enjoyed. He made me feel less than, a sub-par talent with no real value to his team who couldn’t play well because I didn’t have the mental makeup nor innate talent.
He did all this because he didn’t care about me; he cared about winning games and people revering him for his coaching wisdom and guile, which were overrated and had nothing to do with helping high school boys gain confidence in themselves.
But he was ultimately nothing more than a cruel, insensitive person who never cared about me or how I felt about him treating me like a worthless person.
On the day he died the last place you would have found me was at his funeral. I don’t believe in paying respects to people I don’t respect.
You’re another one of those guys I don’t respect even now that you’re gone, Bob.
My high school cuss of a coach behaved a lot like you, Bob. It was always about him and his ego as it was always about you being the super-hero genius Indiana basketball coach. You clenched a player by the neck; my coach would yank me around on the court, not with pleasure but disgust and anger. Then after the game go to his office and drink booze. What a pathetic loser. Mentally abuse kids because you’re sorry how your own life has turned out.
You won a lot of games but the costs were enormous. You hurt people mercilessly and seemingly indiscriminately. Upon your death this week, there were plenty of people remembering how badly you acted far too frequently. I don’t think any of us want to be remembered the week we die as a mean person who, while having some good qualities such as being loyal to some people you liked, mostly the ones who didn’t question how you behaved, left a lot of damaged emotions in his wake. You did exactly that, Bob Knight. Yours is a lame legacy.
Winning and hard work are impressive and there’s no doubt you accomplished that. But honestly, that doesn’t impress me because of the way you treated people, which is much more important than winning. Yes, it is.
We’re put on this Earth to be good to each other and not be rough and behave as if we’re the ones who know what’s right, and anyone who disagrees with us or doesn’t fall in line with what we believe and want deserves to be mistreated.
You got life wrong, Bob Knight.
You were wrong in how you acted and are not deserving of anything more than a lack of admiration for any of your accomplishments.
You showed us all how not to live.
That’s what losers do.
Sammy Sportface, a sports blogger, galvanizes, inspires, and amuses The Baby Boomer Brotherhood. And you can learn about his vision and join this group's Facebook page here:
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