The Immortalization of a Hero



Photo Courtesy of Maria M. Cornelius


Today I pulled out my Smartphone and watched a live stream event of something I will never forget. In Knoxville, Tennessee at 11 am EST Pat Summitt was honored with a plaza whose focal point is a beautiful bronze statue of her that stands almost 9 feet tall. Most people may see this and say this was all about basketball and the 32 years she spent coaching and teaching players at UT.  They would say that the only reason people stood outside in the chilly morning air was to catch a glimpse of a basketball legend. They would only be partially right. You may ask yourself, why does Lisa care so much about Lady Vol Basketball and Pat Summitt. She never attended The University of Tennessee so why is she such a loyal and dedicated fan. Well let me explain. This has more to do with life than with basketball.

As I watched the speeches being given on behalf of Pat, I heard many wonderful things about her coaching record and how many championships she won at the helm.  They spoke about the 100% graduation rate of every player who stayed through her eligibility. Many important people spoke about how wonderful a person and coach Pat is. Tamika Catchings, one of the most accomplished players who has every played for Pat, also gave her insight into how it is to know and play for such an icon. These are the typical topics discussed when speaking about Pat Summitt.

By far, the most touching speech came from her son, Tyler who encompasses everything Pat stands for. He spoke on the 3 main values his mom taught him and how he has strived to live his life by these values:

  • To compete – Always doing your best not just on the court, but in life.
  • Having character – Doing things the right way
  • Family – Surrounding yourself with great people

Now this is getting to the nitty and the gritty of the situation. People love Pat Summitt beyond the basketball court because of the person she is. She cares about people and their well being. She believes in hard work, loyalty and doing things the right way. These are values that seem to be lost in today’s society.  

I had the honor of meeting this lady once in my life. It was years ago at a reception for Tamika Catchings jersey retirement. My husband and I were standing in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame after obtaining Tamika’s autograph. I was so excited to be able to meet my favorite female baller. Now I used to play a little back in the day, but Mika is a BALLER!  For those of you who don’t follow women’s sports, meeting her for me would be the equivalent of meeting Michael Jordan. I was on cloud nine and to give it an extra kick I was standing next to one of the most talked about women’s recruits ever, Ms. Candace Parker. Now Candace was still in high school at the time, but she was highly anticipated and was the first female basketball player to announce her choice of colleges on ESPN with a news conference. It was a big deal! Just when I thought the day could not get any better, in walked Pat Summitt. Now nobody expected her to be in attendance because she was preparing for her game later that night. However, being the classic Pat, she came to support her former player.

The place went wild when they realized she was there, but she agreed to take only a few pictures with some of the younger fans as she did not want to steal Tamika’s shine. I never got a picture with her but I did get one of her. At first I was nervous because on TV she has that mean mug and those famous steely eyes. However, once she smiled and started taking pictures you could see the kindness in her. I had admired her from afar for so long that I did not know what to do when she was actually there, two feet in front of me. I chose to honor her wishes and not ask for a picture. How would it look this grown woman knocking over little girls to take a picture with an icon? I really wanted to, but then I thought what is the right thing to do? Let the kids have their moment to shine.  Now don’t get me wrong, my mom taught me right from wrong, but at that moment I heard Pat’s voice in my head telling me to step back.

I have admired her for years and was shocked and damaged when I learned that she was diagnosed with early onset dementia Alzheimer’s type. I was crushed when it was announced that she would no longer be head coach. I was so afraid that she would just wilt away, but in true Pat Summitt fashion, she said don’t cry for me! Pat is determined to fight this disease so who am I to be so sad. I had to get out of my feelings and try to be positive about this. If anyone can bring this to the disease to its knees it is her.

Pat has meant a lot to me in my adult years when trying to be that independent woman. Like I said before, my mom taught me several great things on how to survive in this world, but I believe that we all need people that are not our parents to teach us as well. Sometimes it’s just a feeling you get watching the person and the way they carry themselves. Maybe that person is more gifted with the way they turn a phrase. Whatever it is we all need someone other than family to enlighten us and for me that person is Pat. I could go on for days about this woman, but I know you all don’t want to hear all of that. I will say this. She is far more than just a legendary basketball coach. If you are old school and feel like people need to go back to living life with more values and treating people better, then you should read more about Pat and her life. One great way to get to know her would be reading her book, Sum It Up. The book takes you on an emotional roller coaster. Who knew that Pat Summitt was so funny and charismatic?



One thought on “The Immortalization of a Hero

  1. Geof Merritt

    Good article Lisa. I don’t know of her, but I am always looking to learn of inspiring and remarkable people. I’ll definitely put that book on my “to read” list. I can appreciate your restraint when you had a chance to talk to her. The 100% is pretty awesome too. Just guessing but there probably are NO male caches that can claim that.

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