4-time NBA champion gives life lessons to students of Volunteer State Community College


john_salleyMake every 24 hours count – that’s a life lesson that one student took from former NBA basketball player John Salley, who spoke at Volunteer State Community College’s Unity Day on Wednesday, Jan. 23.

“He was very genuine and inspirational,” said Bre Neal, 18, a Vol State basketball player. “I’ve always wanted to help people, and now I want to use all of the 24 hours to help people instead of an hour a day. Everyone gets the same 24 hours.”

Mixing humor into key moments of his life and history, Salley encouraged close to 200 attendees to make a difference through positive thinking as part of Unity Day, actually a week-long celebration that Vol State holds each year to honor the dream of Martin Luther King Jr.

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Salley came from a modest background before forging a stellar basketball career starting with the NBA’s Detroit Pistons.

Salley later played with the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls, where he shared the court with Michael Jordan as well as Toni Kukoc, Scottie Pippen and former Pistons teammate Dennis Rodman to lead the Bulls to a record-breaking 72-win season.

Salley is the first NBA player to have played for three different championship-winning teams.

Salley played 748 career games in the NBA (228 started), averaging 7.0 ppg and 4.5 rpg in 22.1 minutes on the court.

A television host, actor and entrepreneur, Salley has most recently embraced the role of wellness advocate through a vegan lifestyle. It was a choice he made after his father died in 1997 of complications from lung cancer.

“Every time they gave him medicine, they kept giving him exploratory medicine that they had explored on animals first,” Salley said. “And then, I found out that if we feed ourselves better, we won’t get half of those diseases.”

Keeping the talk of his basketball career to a minimum, Salley highlighted professional experiences that taught him the value of being an American.

Salley also used humor to encourage his audience to make better mental choices.

“There’re places where half the things we do in America won’t be allowed,” he said. “That’s a wonderful thing to get happy about … to have unity to. I don’t say negative things, and that’s a choice. Happiness is a choice. You can be mad or you can be happy, and let me tell you how much happiness is better. Cause being mad gives you ulcers, gas — so I’ve heard — makes your stomach hurt, makes you gain weight, gives you migraines, headaches because you had this crazy thought about not being positive.”

After listening to Salley, Vol State basketball player Tim Gaines said his dream to play in the NBA felt more attainable.

“Meeting a former NBA player, talking to him, shaking his hand, it made my goal more realistic,” Gaines, 18, said.

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