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CanadianFootball League player, coach, sports executive, and philanthropist, was born Michael Lutrell Clemons in Dunedin, Florida, to Anna O'Neal and Willy James Clemons. The diminutive Clemons earned his nickname in the CFL because, according to Bill O'Billovich, the Toronto Argonauts' head coach, he resembled a pinball when bouncing off of would-be tacklers. His parents never married; Anna raised Michael, while Willy stayed largely at the periphery of his son's life. Later, Anna married and gave birth to Kelli, while her new husband added two children of his own to the family.

Clemons grew up in the projects of a predominantly black working class community His family and neighbors struggled economically at one point Clemons an excellent student and math whiz even helped his mother s boyfriend run a numbers racket Still Clemons and his mother were devout attendees of the local Baptist church ...

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Jason Philip Miller

basketball player, was born Julius Winfield Erving III in Hempstead, New York, and raised by a single mother, his father having abandoned the family when Julius was only three years old. Since his family life was difficult to cope with, Julius spent a great deal of time on the streets and playing basketball at the local community courts. Julius received his familiar “Dr. J” moniker during a childhood pickup game; it was a nickname that would stick with him throughout his long and astonishing basketball career. By the time Julius was ten years old, he was playing with a local Salvation Army basketball team. He had already learned how to dunk—albeit on Prospect Elementary's lower baskets—and in just a few short years he was able to dunk the ball on regulation posts.

When Erving was thirteen, his mother remarried, and in 1963 the family relocated to nearby Roosevelt ...

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During his career Julius Erving—known to fans and announcers as Dr. J—set new standards of performance in his sport and made the slam-dunk into one of the most exciting moves in professional Basketball.

Julius Winfield Erving Jr. was born in East Meadow, New York. He grew up playing basketball on New York City playgrounds and then for Roosevelt High School. He recalled, “My first [slam] dunk was at the Prospect Elementary School, where they had 8-foot baskets and 13-foot ceilings. By the time I was in ninth grade, I was dunking the regular baskets.” Erving attended the University of Massachusetts, and during his sophomore and junior years (1969–1971), he led his team in scoring in forty-six of fifty-two varsity games.

In 1971 Erving left school to join the Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association (ABA). He was named rookie of the year for the 1971 ...

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Joanna Davenport

It was a historic moment. In the 1990 Wimbledon women’s singles final, Martina Navratilova won her ninth singles title, a record held by no other person, when she defeated Zina Garrison, the first black woman to play on Wimbledon’s center court since 1958, when Althea Gibson won her second of two Wimbledon crowns. Being first has been a common occurrence for the professional tennis player Zina Garrison.

Zina Garrison, the youngest of seven children, was born in Houston, Texas, to Mary and Ulysses Garrison Her father died before she was a year old so Garrison was raised by her mother who worked as an aide in a nursing home When Zina was ten she began playing tennis at the local public park courts where she received instruction from the resident coach Impressed with her talent he entered her in local tournaments where she did well By the ...

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Adam W. Green

tennis player, was born in Houston, Texas, the youngest of six children, to Ulysses Garrison, a postal worker, and Mary Elizabeth Garrison, a nursing home aide. Though initially diagnosed with a stomach tumor, Garrison's mother discovered she was pregnant at 42 years old, ten years after her previous child. Her parents chose to begin her name with “Z” to emphasize that she would be the last of their children.

Garrison grew up in the working-class African American neighborhood of Sunnyside Gardens in Houston. When she was eleven months old, her father died of a stroke; three months later, her oldest brother Willie, a catcher in the Milwaukee Braves minor league system, was struck by a baseball, developed a tumor, and died two years later.

Garrison was ten years old when her older brother Rodney introduced her to a free tennis program at nearby MacGregor Park Two months ...

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Jamal Ratchford

track and field athlete, was born Edith McGuire in Rockdale, Georgia, one of four children of Alberta, a domestic worker, and Clifford McGuire, a railroad worker. As a child, McGuire first participated in track and field at her elementary school during its May Day celebration. She next attended Samuel Howard Archer High School and was coached by Georgia Sports Hall-of-Fame member Marian Morgan and Olympian Mildred McDaniel Gold. As a high school student-athlete McGuire excelled in the classroom and was selected to the honor roll. She also participated in cheerleading, basketball, and track and field. At the age of 15, McGuire defeated top-ranked local sprinter Fronnie Tucker, and Morgan recommended she attend Coach Ed Temple's summer camp at Texas Southern University. In the summer of 1960 between her junior and senior years of high school McGuire attended Coach Temple s track and field ...

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Andrew James Kellett

professional football quarterback, was born in Los Angeles, California, the fourth of seven children (and only son) born to Harold Warren Moon, a janitor, and Pat Moon, a nurse. In 1963 the elder Harold Moon died suddenly of liver and heart ailments, leaving Pat to raise Warren and his six sisters. Warren played almost every sport growing up, but had decided by the age of fourteen that football offered his likeliest shot at a professional career. Thus he attended Los Angeles's Hamilton High School even though it was outside his school district, as much because of its reputation for football as for its academic strength.Moon was the varsity starting quarterback his junior and senior years at Hamilton overcoming Los Angeles s rising gang culture more than once his life was threatened by gang members at rival high schools and apparent racism though a prolific passer on ...

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Michael Adams

professional football player, was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, one of eight children of Virginia Moore and George Moore, a steel-mill worker. At Reading High School Moore starred in track, but football would become his main focus: Moore scored twenty-two touchdowns during his senior season in 1951, earning a scholarship to Pennsylvania State University. Penn State coach Rip Engle would not allow players to wear the low-cut shoes Moore had worn in high school. Uncomfortable with high-top shoes, Moore learned from teammate Bob Pollard that he could use tape to eliminate the tightness of the upper part of the shoe. Because of this white tape, Moore became known as “Spats.”

Moore became the first Penn State running back to gain over one thousand yards in a season. After graduating in 1956, he was chosen by the Baltimore Colts in the first round of the 1956 National ...

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Adam W. Green

baseball player, was born Eddie Clarence Murray in Los Angeles to Charles Murray, a rug company mechanic, and Carrie Murray. The eighth of twelve children, Eddie was raised in the poverty-stricken neighborhood of Watts, but was closely watched by his parents, who readily dispensed chores and discipline. Playing baseball in the backyard, he and his siblings used broomstick handles to hit tin foil balls and swerving Crisco can lids. Though he also played basketball at Locke High, Eddie was the star first baseman and pitcher on the diamond, where he played with the future Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith. Scoring admirably on a psychological exam given to amateur players, the results of the exam showed that he had “tremendous emotional control. He had a lot of drive, but it was masked by his emotional control,” according to former Orioles scout Dave Ritterpusch (Christensen The ...

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Martha Saavedra

Mozambican athlete and philanthropist, was born on 27 October 1972 in Maputo, Mozambique. One of the most accomplished athletes ever, Mutola maintained a dominating presence for two decades in her event, the 800-meter foot race, a race of speed and endurance. Her achievements include Mozambique’s first Olympic gold medal, three world championships, and seven world indoor championships. Number seventeen on the all-time list for the 800—only seven women have run faster—it was her consistency in winning that cemented her reputation. Fittingly, she went undefeated in 2003 in six track meets to become the first athlete to win the $1 million International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) Golden League Jackpot. She retired in 2008 after competing in her sixth Olympics and one final Golden League meet in Zurich. Like many other elite athletes, she has used her fame and earnings for social projects, particularly through her foundation in Mozambique.

Had professional ...

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Jeremy Rich

basketball player and philanthropist, was born on 25 June 1966 in Kinshasa the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo His mother was Biamba Marie Mutombo and his father was Samuel Mutombo They named him Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukama Jean Jacques Wamutombo Both his parents belonged to the Luba ethnic community He was the seventh of ten children Mutombo s father the principal of a secondary school and later a civil servant in the Congolese ministry of education instilled in his son a great respect for learning Mutombo eventually would speak French Spanish Italian English Lingala Tshiluba and three other African languages Mutombo attended primary and secondary school in the Congo without ever touching a basketball even though he later became a star in this sport It was only at the age of eighteen that Mutombo handled a basketball for the first time He managed to cut himself ...

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SaFiya D. Hoskins

basketball player, was born David Maurice Robinson in Key West, Florida, the second child of Ambrose and Freda Robinson His father was a naval officer and his mother was a nurse Robinson s father was required to travel frequently The family moved to Virginia Beach Virginia when he was young and when his father retired from the navy they finally settled in Woodbridge Virginia Robinson was an excellent student and from the age of six attended schools for gifted children In junior high school he continued his exceptional scholarship and standing 5 feet 9 inches tall demonstrated extraordinary athleticism in many sports with the exception of basketball It was not until his senior year at Osbourn Park High School in Manassas Virginia that the then 6 foot 7 inch tall Robinson joined the basketball team He earned area and district honors in his first season Robinson achieved high ...

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Michael Ezra

football player, was born in Wichita, Kansas, one of three children of Roger Winfield Sayers, a car polisher and mechanic for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, and Bernice Ross. In 1951 the family moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where Roger Sayers's brother lived. But financial difficulties forced the family to move within the city nine times in eight years. By the time Gale entered high school, his parents were suffering from depression and alcohol abuse, and the family lived in poverty. Because they often had no coal for their furnace, Gale and his two brothers would turn on the kitchen's gas oven for nighttime heat, which often caused them to wake up feeling sick.Despite such adversity Sayers thrived while in Omaha because the city gave him opportunities to compete in sports At the Howard Kennedy grade school Sayers led his teams to city titles in baseball ...

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Vincent A. Shivers

football Hall of Famer, author, and business executive. Gale Eugene Sayers was born in Wichita, Kansas. In 1951, after the death of Gale's grandfather, the family moved to Nebraska. In Nebraska, Sayers began his career as an athlete, joining the Midget Football League and becoming a standout. At Omaha's Central High School he was an exceptional track-and-field athlete, receiving three gold medals. As a senior he set a statewide record in the long jump. Sayers was named to the All-Midwestern and All-American high school football teams. He signed several letters of intent for football scholarships. Institutions such as Iowa State and Notre Dame were interested in Sayers, but he decided on the University of Kansas at Lawrence.

Sayers earned the nickname the Kansas Comet because of his remarkable skills as a running back While a freshman Sayers struggled with his classes fortunately that same year he ...

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Adam W. Green

baseball player, was born Osborne Earl Smith in Mobile, Alabama, to Clovis Smith, a truck driver, and Marvella Smith, a homemaker. When Ozzie was six, his parents moved with their five children to the Watts section of Los Angeles. Smith took up baseball at a young age, and rarely went anywhere without a ball in his hands. Developing his hand-eye coordination by spending hours fielding a rubber ball thrown against his house, Smith eventually played shortstop at Locke High School, which he entered in the fall of 1969. His small frame kept him from being noticed by baseball scouts, many of whom were interested in Smith's teammate and future Hall-of-Famer Eddie Murray.

Graduating from high school in 1973 Smith enrolled that fall at California State Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo on a government grant and made the baseball team as a walk on ...

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Dolph H. Grundman

basketball player, executive, and coach, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Charles D. Unseld, a blue-collar worker, and Cornelia D. Unseld, a school cafeteria worker. The Unselds had seven children of their own and two adopted boys. In 1963 the National Conference of Christians and Jews honored the family with its brotherhood award for rebuilding a local recreation center damaged by a fire. The seed of community service was planted early in Wes Unseld's life and remained important to him. Athletic ability in the Unseld family was not limited to Wes. His brother George played basketball at the University of Kansas from 1962 to 1964. Wes credited Carl Wright, his freshman high school coach, with fueling his interest in basketball. Wright developed Wes's basketball skills in daily one-on-one contests.

At Seneca High in Louisville Unseld played football and won the state championship in ...

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T. Natasha Turner

international fencer and philanthropist, was born Peter Jonathan Westbrook in St Louis Missouri the son of Ulysses Westbrook an African American army corporal and Mariko Wada a school custodian Peter s parents met while his father was stationed in Kobe Japan and married despite the objections of his mother s well to do Japanese Catholic family Soon after his birth Westbrook s family relocated to Newark New Jersey where they lived in near poverty in a housing project When he was a toddler Peter s parents separated and he rarely saw his father again His tough surroundings and teasing because of his biracial background often compelled young Peter to get into fights Seeing that her son needed a positive way to channel his aggressive energy and believing that the discipline involved in fencing would be good for him Mariko Westbrook persuaded her 13 year old son to join the ...