Dec. 5, 2006
By Talia Bargil
Courtesy of Legends of Basktball
Former Saluki and 10-year NBA veteran Mike "Stinger" Glenn's modest interest in collecting books has evolved into a tremendous historical expedition. Glenn has created a rare and impressive exhibit, "From Molineaux to Michael: African-Americans in Athletics."
"I am in a whole new stratosphere now," said Glenn, a Georgia native. "This year, a number of athletes are coming together to pay homage to African-American sports figures who have been marginalized or made invisible. My goal is to raise self-esteem of African-Americans and change the way sports history is taught in America."
Some of the nation's most accomplished African-American athletes will gather in Atlanta on Dec. 18 to honor American boxer Tom Molineaux as part of a unique exhibition of historical documents, photos, articles and more. Formerly enslaved, Molineaux became the first U.S. prizefighter to compete for the heavyweight crown on the world stage.
"History hasn't been kind to this extraordinary individual. When professional and collegiate sports were integrated, Black athletes who participated were recognized for some of their accomplishments. However, Black athletes who preceded the integrationists were dismissed, marginalized and made invisible. We only hear a casual mention of their names at isolated times or during Black History Month, so, in effect, sports was integrated, but sports history has never been integrated," explains Glenn.
Glenn has also authored a few books of his own, including Lessons In Success from the NBA's Top Players, Lessons from my Library; Volume I, and Lessons from my Library; Volume II.
"Growing up, I was always reading books, my mom was big on that. In 1997, I learned for the first time about first-edition books," he said. "I went on a book-collecting binge, starting with the Harlem Renaissance Period, then to slavery, then to the arts, and eventually got to sports."
But before he stumbled upon his passion for African-American history, Glenn's heart and soul has - and continues to be - committed to children in the deaf community. Just completing his 27th summer of his All-Star Basketball Camp for the Hearing-Impaired, the nation's first free summer basketball camp for hearing-challenged athletes, Glenn says his camp is a model for society.
"My dad taught math at the Georgia School for the Deaf, and so I grew up around deaf kids my whole childhood. I could sign just about before I could talk. Sign language is second nature to me."
After spending his youth attending summer basketball camps that helped him improve his game on many levels, Glenn was hurt to learn that not every child enjoyed the same experience.
"I can remember coming back from those camps and asking my deaf friends if they had gone to basketball camp. They always told me they were not allowed because they were deaf. That hurt me just as much as it hurt them," he said. "Way back then I thought about creating a camp especially for deaf kids. The seed was planted in high school."
Following in the footsteps of his father, who managed to establish a number of sports teams in what was then the segregated South, Glenn saw his dream of a basketball camp for deaf children come to fruition in 1980 while he was a New York Knick.
"I have received immense blessings from this...to be able to provide hundreds of deaf children with an experience they could never have dreamed of," he said. "NBA players come out to the camp to teach the fundamentals of the game, it's competitive, we give out trophies, and it's a lot of fun."
Not only did Glenn manage to roll out his summer program while he was still an active player, but he also earned himself a master's degree in business administration during his NBA off-seasons. His knack for business led him to the Wall Street offices of Merrill Lynch, where he worked as a stockbroker for several years.
"I was always fascinated by the energy of Wall Street. I used the NBA off-season to get my stockbroker license, and in my free time, I'd be reading business books, charting stocks, trading options," he said. "After I retired from the league and went to work for Merrill Lynch, I felt empowered because I was able to utilize my math skills. It was a fulfilling experience."
While he deems his downtown New York City tenure a fulfilling experience, Glenn's fate had him heading in a new direction. During the Bucks vs. Hawks playoff series of the late `80s, Glenn took a particular interest in the match-up, not only because he had once played for each of those teams, but he had also played for those very coaches, Don Nelson (Bucks) and Mike Fratello (Hawks).
"I asked the Atlanta Journal-Constitution if I could write an article with my analysis of the series since I knew the players, coaches, what they would do on the court...I wound up doing a bunch of articles, and the city just ate it up. My mom saved every article," said Glenn with a chuckle.
The media took notice, and after a halftime appearance on TNT, Glenn began substituting for Walt "Clyde" Frazier, who was the full-time television analyst for the Hawks at the time. When Frazier left Atlanta to pursue a broadcast position with the Knicks, the open seat was waiting for Glenn.
"The thought of going into broadcasting never even crossed my mind. I was a math major and computer science major in college [Southern Illinois University]. I had no interest in television communications."
But, as life tends to throw curve balls, Glenn was pleasantly surprised with the direction of his.
"Broadcasting brought me back...I got my adrenalin flowing again," he said. "Merrill Lynch was a far cry from the dance teams and high-fives you see while broadcasting. It was a serious adjustment, but I developed a love for broadcasting."
After 15 years in the hot seat, Glenn has taken a break from the camera to focus his attention on his upcoming event. However, he has plans to eventually return under the bright lights as a collegiate broadcaster with ESPNU.
Right now, Glenn, joined by more than 25 nationally renowned athletes, is ready to launch one of the most compelling exhibits in the history of African-American sports.
"The impact and unity of all this is powerful and sensational, far beyond what I've ever done," he said. "We are finally getting these Black pioneers off the back of the bus."