22 Jun Bob Love
Speaker: Bob Love
Former NBA player
Born in 1942, Robert Earl Love (nicknamed Butterbean after his favorite food) grew up in poverty as one of fourteen children in rural Louisiana. As a child and throughout his early life he was unable to do what most of us take for granted–speak properly. He had a severe stuttering problem. There were long periods which he could not speak at all, as well as times when he just stumbled his way through.
To escape from his embarrassing speech problem, Love dreamed of one day becoming a basketball star. Not having the financial resources to afford a basket or basketball, young Bob nailed a coat hanger to the side of his grandmother’s house and used his imagination, and what an imagination it turned out to be.
As he grew to a six-foot-eight high school senior, Bob’s dreams of being a great athlete became real. He was the first player from Southern University in Louisiana to be named to the All-America Team by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. After college, Bob played for the Cincinnati Royals basketball team and was later traded to the Milwaukee Bucks and then to the Chicago Bulls.
Bob Love rose through the ranks and became one of the top players ever to play the game of basketball. He played with the Chicago Bulls for eight seasons from 1969 to 1976 and was a three-time NBA All-Star. For seven straight years he was the Bulls leading scorer and is the second highest scorer in Bulls history and. (Did you guess that Michael Jordan is the top scorer?)
His life was unstoppable until…he hurt his back. His playing days were over. The doctors told him he would never walk again, and his wife left him, taking all their belongings saying she did not want to be married to a “stutterer and a cripple.” Unable to speak, Bob tried for seven years to find a steady job. In the early 80’s he hit rock bottom. He took a job busing tables and washing dishes at Nordstrom’s in Seattle, Washington, at $4.45 an hour.
Days, weeks, and months went by. It was the most humiliating and embarrassing time of his life. Former players and their children would see him cleaning tables, and Love recalls overhearing people whisper things like, “Hey, that’s Bob Love…used to be a great basketball player…what a shame.”
Those whispers made Bob stronger. He endured for over a year-and-a-half, and one day, one of the Nordstrom owners said he was doing a great job and offered to help him with his speech problem. Finally at the age of 45, he found a speech therapist who helped him learn to speak without struggling. Bob worked as hard on his dream of being able to talk as he had worked on basketball.
In 1992, he received a call from Steve Schanwald, the Bulls vice president of marketing and broadcasting. The fans still loved him and they wanted him back. Would he consider a job as director of community relations? After all those years, he was finally coming home. He promptly accepted the job and dropped down to his knees and gave thanks. Bob is now the Community Relations Director for his former team, the Chicago Bulls. Bob was a new man.
The mid-’90s have bestowed some happy times upon Love. On January 19, 1994, his famous number 10 jersey was retired before a sellout crowd at Chicago stadium. Also, on December 8, 1995, Bob Love married his new bride, Rachel Dixon, at a ceremony during half-time of the Bulls-San Antonio game. Bob Love is living proof that dreams can come true to those who hang onto them.