MEMPHIS, Tenn. (April 24, 2007) — NBA All-Star Bob Love joins an array well-known sports figures to speak out for those who stutter: Bill Walton, Johnny Damon, Tiger Woods, Kenyon Martin and Ken Venturi.
Love knows first-hand the experiences of someone who stutters. He has overcome considerable frustrations and setbacks since his glory years with the Chicago Bulls.
“Bob is more than a great basketball star and community leader,” said Jane Fraser, president of the 60-year-old Stuttering Foundation. “He leads this year’s Stuttering Awareness Week because of his courage in coping with his speech impediment.”
“I know how important it is to receive speech therapy at an early age,” Love said. “My grandmother Ella used to swat me in the mouth with a dishrag and say ‘Spit out those words, Robert Earl,’” he recalls.
“That approach didn’t work very well, but it underscores the public’s misunderstanding of stuttering that is still prevalent,” said Love.
Difficulty in finding a job for those who stutter is nothing new to him. In the 1970s, he made the NBA All-Star Team three times and led the Chicago Bulls in scoring seven straight years. But he still stuttered, and there were fewer media interviews or endorsements than a player of his caliber would normally receive.
“After my retirement from the NBA, reaction by potential employers to my speaking difficulty turned the usually tough post-sports career adjustment into a living nightmare,” Love relates. “I had a college degree, but personnel managers seldom call back someone who stutters on the telephone.”
By the end of 1984 — some seven years after millions had watched him play NBA basketball — Love took the only job offered to him. He would wash dishes and bus tables for Nordstrom department store.
Yet it was here that Love’s story began a slow and difficult turn for the better. First, there was the corporate manager of Nordstrom’s, who offered to have his company pay for speech therapy. Enter speech pathologist Susan Hamilton, who would guide Love through countless hours of therapy in which he learned to manage his moments of stuttering and speak more fluently.
“Today my message to young people who stutter and their parents is direct: Don’t wait, like I did,” Love emphasizes. “Speech therapy during childhood has the greatest chance of success.”
Bob Love joins an impressive list of famous people who have not let stuttering hold them back from rewarding lives and careers. For more information, call the nonprofit Stuttering Foundation at 800-992-9392 or visit www.stutteringhelp.org