Facing your fears is never easy, even if you're a 6-foot-8-inch, 260-pound beast. No matter how many years of experience you've got banging bodies on the block with some of the best basketball players in the world, when that little voice inside your own head pipes up — the one that's been there for years, the one that shrieks and screams like an emergency alert siren — you can't rely on brute force to keep you moving toward whatever it is that's triggering the alarm. You need some other means of propulsion ... like, say, the image of your 6-year-old son in swimmies.
At least, that's what led Boston Celtics power forward Brandon Bass to a Waltham, Mass., swimming pool last Friday and, for the first time in his 28 years, actually got him to get in the water for a swimming lesson, as detailed in Tuesday's Yahoo Sports Minute:
Bella English of the Boston Globe has more on Bass' decision to join kids from the Boys & Girls Club of Boston to start building his skill set ("If you threw me out in the ocean, I would drown") during a trip to Waltham's Boston Sports Club:
Though he is volunteering his time to help children conquer their fear of swimming, Bass has fears of his own. “I’m nervous, because I don’t know how to float,” he says. “I can’t tread water.”
Bass grew up in Baton Rouge, La., with no real place to swim and with friends, a brother, and parents who did not swim either. When he was a child, a neighbor his age drowned, and the memory has stayed with him. [...]
Bass’s dual motivations are his kids, Brandon Jr. and 20-month-old Bella. “Brandon was jumping into the water at 2 years old,” he says. “I had to get him little floaties for his arms.”
He put his son in swim lessons and now “he swims like a bass fish,” Bass says. Bella recently started swim lessons. “She’s not really a big fan, but she knows how to float,” he says.
There’s added motivation: In 2009, Bass bought a house with a pool on a lake in Orlando, where the family spends the offseason. He also bought a Jet Ski, which he and his son use together.
“I can tell he’s having the time of his life, and he doesn’t have a worry in the world,” says Bass. “But I’m a little worried.”
His son senses it and says: “Dad, you can’t swim!” Says Bass: “I just feel as the man of the house, I need to learn to swim.”
Bass is far from alone when it comes to an aversion to water. As the Globe's English notes, 40 percent of white children, 60 percent of Hispanic children and 70 percent of black children do not know how to swim, according to the USA Swimming Foundation, making drowning the second-leading cause of death among children under age 14.
It's also not uncommon among NBA players. Bass' teammate, Jeff Green, said he's never learned to swim after a frightening childhood incident, and Celtics president Danny Ainge said that when he was coaching the Phoenix Suns in the late 1990s, he learned that only three of his 15 players could swim when he tried to institute pool conditioning as part of their daily routine. (They stayed out of the water.)
One lesson won't turn Bass into Michael Phelps or anything, but if it helps reduce his own fear of getting in the water — and helps some kids learn a skill that could save their lives — then it's a pretty important session, to say the least. Big up yourself, Brandon Bass, and best of luck learning how to tread water. (It's a skill you and the rest of the Celtics might need this year.)