NASHVILLE --- It’s not every day a two-time NBA champion stops by Tennessee State men’s basketball practice. When that player is the school’s all-time leading scorer, Dr. Dick Barnett, it is an especially notable event.
Barnett, who led the Tigers to three-consecutive NAIA National Championships from 1957-59, observed Tuesday’s practice before delivering a powerful message to the team about his story and the importance of education. The 80-year old Barnett is in Nashville for the University’s Homecoming celebration.
“It’s always good to come back to visit,” Barnett said. “My relationship with TSU is non-ending. I’ve been really enjoying Coach Dana Ford, and the job he’s been doing is very encouraging.”
A dominant player for Tennessee A&I, Barnett scored 3,209 points for the Tigers before being selected fourth overall in the 1959 NBA Draft by the Syracuse Nationals. He won NBA Championships with the New York Knicks in 1970 and 1973, and his number is retired by the organization.
"What an honor it was for all of us to be in the presence of true greatness," Ford commented. "We're talking about an individual who has achieved the highest degree of success both on and off the court. Dr. Barnett is one of the most illustrious alums that our university has to offer."
As part of his post-practice speech on the day, Barnett talked about his path to the NBA. His commitment to the game was evident by his work ethic in college. Barnett reminisced about the time then-University President, Dr. Walter S. Davis, told school officials to give Barnett a key to the Kean Hall Gymnasium to stop his continuous attempts to break into the gym on Sundays to get in an extra workout.
Barnett discussed the keys to his success in college and during his 14-year NBA career. The first key was consciousness, which Barnett explained was the importance of self awareness. Secondly, Barnett talked about commitment, reflecting on his daily workouts that lasted four-to-five hours.
He also discussed having conviction and knowing that the path you are on is the right one for you. Finally, Barnett’s last two keys were control, which he described as avoiding decisions that will deter your dreams, and courage, the ability to say ‘no’ to bad situations.
His success on the court is obvious by the legacy he has left behind. His jersey numbers from high school, college and the New York Knicks are retired by their respective teams. Away from the basketball court, Barnett, who earned his doctorate degree from Fordham, has written multiple books and worked as a professor at St. John's University.
Dr. Dick Barnett Adresses the TSU Men's Basketball Team after Practice - Oct. 11, 2016