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Original Issue

My Father Knew Best

Dad died last week, but I know now how fortunate I've been to have him and to benefit from his wisdom

WHEN I was achild, I didn't listen to my father. It was more than just disobedience; it wasfull-fledged disregard. If he said to turn right, I'd make three leftturns.

I graduated fromhigh school and stepped out into the world convinced of my own invincibility. Iwas on my way to becoming a Big-Time Athlete at a Big-Time School, and I knewwhat lay ahead of me: easy classes, easier girls and my name in lights. Buthere came my father to ruin the fun. He gave me a lecture that lasted 20minutes but can be summed up in one phrase: "Don't get pimped."

Too many youngblack men were being used, he said. They were idolized for a few years,entranced by the glitter of fool's gold, only to be shuffled off with nothingto show for it. "My son will not be among them," he told me. My fatherhad seen guys come back to his neighborhood and return to the same streetcorner they had been hanging around on before. Far too often he'd heard,"Oh, there's what's-his-name, who used to play at the park.... Yeah, thatboy could really play. Shame what happened to him."

My father told meto look past the glitz and glamour. Although some players make it to the NBA,he said, a lot of guys scrape by with the minimum GPA in college, ending upempty-handed on both graduation and draft days. He said that if he had to whupmy ass every day to get me across that stage, he would do it. After a fewacademic bumps and bruises my first semester, I buckled down and took his wordsto heart.

I'm glad I did,but I'm even happier that I had someone to guide me. The lack of male rolemodels is all too common in African-American households. Countless friends andteammates never had relationships with their fathers. I was lucky. As I reflecton the time I spent with my father, I'm not saddened by visions of what he'llmiss, but cheered by memories of what he got to enjoy: 56 eventful years, 20years of marriage and three children who will remember his lessons forever.



TOUGH LOVE Jackson (with his sons) was a strict but proud dad.