Former Sonics player and coach to be honored Friday for efforts to aid Seattle-area youth.
Lenny Wilkens grew up in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, but Seattle has been his home for decades.
The former Sonics star and coach was taught early in life to value his community, and in 1998 he and his wife Marilyn formed the Lenny Wilkens Foundation, which funds organizations that deliver health care to children.
“I believe in young people,” he said. “I feel that they’re tomorrow’s doctors, lawyers, coaches.
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“We who are here and have been here, it’s important that we open the door. That we be positive. That we let them know people care. That’s our future.”
Wilkens will be honored Friday at the 78th annual MTR Western Sports Star of the Year Banquet. He’ll receive the Sports Citizen award for his charity work.
It’s one of many awards for Wilkens, who is the only member of the Basketball Hall of Fame inducted as a player and twice as a coach.
The 75-year-old Medina resident is best known in Seattle as the coach who guided the Sonics to a 1979 NBA title.
As a player, Wilkens was a nine-time NBA All-Star who captured Most Valuable Player in 1971.
In addition to the Sonics, he coached the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors while compiling a 1,332-1,155 record. He ranks second on the NBA’s career victories list.
Wilkens also coached the United States to a gold medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics and was an assistant in 1992 when the Dream Team took the title.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar once described Wilkens as a “basketball ambassador who brings goodwill wherever he goes.”
Wilkens’ foundation focuses on youth. Its tenets read:
• “Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders, and it is our duty to make sure they all have an equal opportunity to succeed.”
• “Children have the right to receive basic healthcare with dignity, regardless of their families’ ability to pay.”
• “All children should have access to educational tools that prepare them to thrive in our increasingly competitive world.”
The primary recipient of funds from the foundation is the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, a clinic of Seattle Children’s Hospital.
“I feel when you live in a community, you need to be active,” Wilkens said. “You need to be part of that community if you can.
“I’m very proud of the foundation and what it does and certainly the things we’ve accomplished.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org