Luke Graham: Nater's got it right

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Basketball and life.

The two really aren't that different for Swen Nater.

Nater, who spoke Saturday at the Steamboat Grand during the Christian Heritage School's annual fundraiser, has a unique story.

From immigrant orphan to professional basketball player.

But what fascinated me most about Nater was how basketball and his life are so intertwined.

We're always told as children that you should get a job that you'll love.

Swen Nater was able to do that through hard work.

I spent two hours with him and wished it could have been two days.

For me, it was like a two-hour crash course on the game of basketball (something I love) and the game of life (something everyone is trying to get better at).

He played for the last college basketball dynasty - and possibly greatest team ever - in UCLA. He's still great friends with the basketball Messiah (John Wooden). He played for the UCLA team that won 88 games in a row. He played against arguably two of the top 5 centers ever (Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).

Still, it's Nater's philosophy on life that people should pay attention to.

"Luck does not ever come," Nater said. "Luck is down the road waiting for those that work hard."

And it's the hard work that got Nater where he is.

He always worked hard. His hard work made him a junior college all-American, got him a scholarship to UCLA and gave him a professional career.

"The hard work," Nater said, "that just came."

The funny thing is, most people in Nater's situation wouldn't have succeeded. After being a junior college All-American, Nater went to UCLA fully knowing he probably wouldn't see much playing time.

Still, he went, worked hard and became a better basketball player.

And maybe the most striking statistic in basketball that shows hard work is rebounding.

Nater's the only player to ever lead both the NBA and ABA in rebounding.

Nater's philosophy on life is simple. Work hard no matter where you're at so you're ready when that opportunity comes.

And even if that opportunity doesn't come, you're a better person anyway because you've been working hard.

Simply put, Nater has it figured out.

And for those lucky enough to put in the hard work, like Nater, it can be as simple as life and basketball.

- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229

or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com

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