First deaf NBA player teaches kids life lessons through basketball
Ravell Call, Deseret News
TAYLORSVILLE — Shoes squeaked on the basketball court Monday afternoon as a group of boys practiced dribbling and layups.
But there were no whistles or coaches yelling from the sidelines.
Instead, they used American Sign Language to communicate with the boys during the clinic for youths who are hard of hearing or deaf.
Lance Allred, the first legally deaf NBA player, was among the coaches hoping to teach the boys about more than just basketball.
"Growing up deaf, hearing impaired, people all my life told me what I can't do," Allred said. "I wanted to give other people hope or motivation or courage, I guess, to go do the things they wanted to do with their life."
A typical basketball camp can be difficult and sometimes embarrassing for a child who is hard of hearing, said Marilyn Call, division director for the Sanderson Community Center of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, where Monday's clinic was held.
"You're always behind," Call said. "By the time the rest of the kids are already practicing their dribbling, you're just finding out, 'Oh, we're supposed to do 10 dribbles right now.'"
The weeklong camps for boys ages 8-11 and 12-18 give them an opportunity to gain confidence to fulfill dreams that before may have seemed unattainable, she said.
Allred, who played with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2008, said the beauty of basketball is that it's a universal language. He tells the boys to play visually, read body language, and use their strengths.
Allred said he takes out his hearing aids during games. In the fourth quarter, the noise can be deafening for everyone, he said.
"In the land of temporary deafness, the permanently deaf man is king," Allred said.
Joshua Kinner, 12, is deaf and has played basketball since age 7. He said playing with Allred will give him an edge in the upcoming season.
"I mean, he's like a professional player, and to be able to meet with him and learn from him and to improve our skills is great," he signed.
Working with Allred, Joshua also has learned that if he puts his mind to something, he can do it.
"My goal is just to do better in life and to be able to improve and achieve what I want," he said. "I want to go to college and get an education."
Isicc Prettypaint, 17, said he hopes to be a famous basketball player like Allred someday.
"That's really what I want for my future and my life," he said. "(Allred's) a good example to us. I hope to be like that."
Allred said he didn't have a role model to look up to as a boy. He was afraid of failure. He felt inadequate. Eventually he learned he didn't need to constantly prove himself. It's a message Allred said he hopes to leave with the boys.
"I just want them to know they're already perfect. And they don't have to prove anyone anything," he said.
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