*********PREFACE: Yes, I already posted this in . . . October? Whatever, but I posted the Leon Powe story a while ago. But, I went back through it and wrote a BETTER new and IMPROVED Leon Powe story, at least in my opinion. I shook it up a while ago. In the words of Weezy F. Baby . . . Remix Baby!*********
A Moose Track
How do they happen? The stories that keep you surprised, bewildered, amused and excited all at the same time. The stories that simultaneously bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your face. The stories that leave you happy for the people involved and making you feel damn lucky about your own privileged life.
Sometimes these stories go unnoticed, never heard about by anyone, staying deep in the background of the individual. These stories are often never acknowledged; even though they have the power to inspire, and empower. How many people have heard the amazing story of Leon Powe, power forward for the Boston Celtics? Not as much as there should be.
Leon Powe, Jr. was born on January 22, 1984 in the tough inner-city area of Oakland, California. At the age of two, his father bolted from the family and his mother, Connie Landry, leaving Leon the man of the house. Without a steady income to support Leon and his six younger brothers and sisters, she was forced to sell trinkets and toys at a flea market; which was enough to keep her family from going hungry.
At seven years old, walking home from school one day, Leon faced a shocking sight that left him no less surprised and crestfallen than renewed sentence on a convict. His house, now a vast pile of ashes, was being hosed down by firemen. Apparently, his younger brother Tim was playing with an errant match. Kids.
Out of a home, the eight-person Powe family found themselves nomads overnight in one of the toughest neighborhoods in America. They settled and slept where they could, be it a cheap motel, an abandoned car or a street corner, and over the six years of their nomadic existence they lived in over 20 locations.
Food wasn't always a given for the young family, and with her mother working long hours on a low-paying job, Leon was often forced to stay home from school to look after his little siblings; being the oldest. With the burden of having to take car of many children, working a job and having so little money overpowered Connie, and she gave into her drug addictions. When Leon was ten years old she was caught stealing groceries and was sentenced to ninety days in prison.
During her stay in jail, they discovered her drug addiction, and the Child Protective Services took custody over Leon and his siblings and they were placed under foster care. He had to grow up faster than most; with an absent father figure and a mother who wasn't there for most of his childhood. You'd almost expect him to get into the nearby gangbangin'.
But Bernard King, the older brother of Leon's then-best friend Shamare Freeman, was determined to not let that happen. Freeman was constantly flirting with trouble and, sometimes, the law as well. In their teens, Leon walked away from his best friend and, hours later, Shamare was caught stealing a bike. Shamare was sent to jail, and Bernard took Powe under his wing and acted as a father figure. Playing basketball on the streets kept him out of trouble.
For high school, still in foster care, he attended Oakland Technical High School, a public institution with an enrollment of 1,500 students. He led the basketball team to the state championship as a Junior, but Leon Powe was not known for his luck. Four days before a game, his mother died of a heart attack at the age of forty one, leaving Powe shocked and full of grief. Knowing that his mother would have wanted him to take part in the game, he played in the loss.
He cruised through the high school basketball circuit, leading his team to the state championship again the following year and getting national attention for his play. He won many prestigious awards, and he became the only player to have their number retired at the high school. But with all of these significant events happening on the court, he had to keep his grades up off of it.
With his tutor, Jonas Zuckerman (hired by Ward, one of Powe's elementary school teachers) Powe studied profusely for the SAT. At first, he didn't care about his academic performance. But as he realized that it was as important as advertised, he went to classes without being told, and his GPA rose from a low-level 1.8 to a very respectable 3.2. He took the SAT's four times in order to obtain the necessary score, with a fifth just in case.
An excited Leon decided to attend the University of California, Berkeley, where he shined early as a player. He played a year and a half for the California Golden Bears, with a large injury in the middle, although it didn't hinder his play. After this stellar play, he decided to leave college before his senior year to enter the 2006 NBA Draft.
He continued over the next four years to play his game, emerging as an elite bench player for a great team, the Boston Celtics, and was a key component in their championship season that was 2008. The story of Leon Powe is one of ultimate success, a feel-good of epic proportions.
How do these stories happen? How do they become possible? We can only imagine. The story is interesting and awe-inspiring amongst many other adjectives that could be used. The true role models lie in these recounts; I just wish they were told more. If you are a basketball fan, Leon's game demands your attention.
But his life story demands your respect.