Leland Stein III

Posts Tagged ‘United States’

In Bryant’s final All-Star game NBA rolls out red carpet

In sports column on February 17, 2016 at 3:55 am

Westbrook wins MVP, but Bryant’s legacy is also an MVP

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Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry and others celebrate the West’s win. Gary Montgomery photo

By Leland Stein III

TORONTO – Did I just witness a NBA Ballet experience?

ap-all-star-game-basketball

Kobe Bryant and his two daughters.

From these humble eyes I would offer there never were more demonstrations of athletic movements akin to ballet than at the NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto, Canada – the first All-Star event played outside the United States.

With professional athletes’ rapid and swift action in NBA basketball, the violence and physicality of NFL football and the hand-eye-coordination of MLB baseball players, the smooth athleticism of a professional athlete’s body in action gets lost on fans without replay, because the action happens too briskly.

Leland Stein III

The annual NBA All-Star Game and its super stars, celebrity filled contingent along with 19,800, descended on Air Canada Centre in Downtown Toronto and were not dissatisfied as Western Conference outran the Eastern Conference in a record breaking score of 196 to 173.

The teams combined for a record 369 points. The previous All-Star Game record was 321 points in 2015.

After all the running and gunning, even Paul George’s 41 points – one shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star Game record set in 1962 – and an All-Star Game record nine three-pointers, could not keep the explosive Russell Westbrook from being named All-Star MVP for the second year in a row after he tossed in 31 points (including seven three-pointers), grabbed eight rebounds, with five assists and five steals.

No matter, the day still belonged to the Lakers’ retiring Kobe Bryant.

Bryant played in his 15th All-Star Game, which tied him with Tim Duncan for second most all time. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has the record with 18. Bryant extended his own record by starting an All-Star Game for the 15th time and he also recorded one steal (his 38th) to break a first-place tie with Michael Jordan (37) for most steals in the games’ history.

LeBron James finished with 13 points and Bryant 10 points to become the all-time scoring leader in the Game’s history. James has 291 points and Bryant has 290.

“I do not care about being the scoring leader,” James said. “It was just bittersweet being out on the floor with him, knowing the matches between us are coming to an end. But when you get that opportunity versus a great man, you just have fun with it.”

James continued: “I know it’s been overwhelming for him over this year, but our fans across the world and here in the States and here in Toronto have been paying so much respect. It’s all well deserved. I’m happy that I’ve been along for a small piece of the ride of his journey. We’re very good friends, and I’ve been watching his journey for 20 years. When I don’t see him out there in Charlotte, I think that’s when it will sink in that it is over.”

Bryant a five-time NBA Finals champion, a two time Olympic Gold medalist, an 18-time Western Conference All-Star, a four-time All-Star Game MVP, NBA league’s MVP in 2008 and a two-time Finals MVP had the international gathering in Toronto calling his name.

After the team introductions, Magic Johnson came out to specially anoint/announce Kobe. He joyfully exclaimed the noteworthy history Bryant has put down and right after he gave the mike to him and the fans broke into a continuous Koooooobe Bryyyyyyyant chant. That was just the start of the lovefest. A tribute video featuring Bryant’s highlights, his voice and interviews with many of today’s players followed right after.

In the post-game press conference Bryant talked about his interaction with the legends of the game and today’s players. “I think it’s the stories of when I and they first came into the league,” he recalled, “and when we were matching up against each other, and just kind of the little things like an elbow here or a steal here, and then wanting to earn the legends respect at an early age and later the young ones wanting to earn my respect.

“When I heard those kinds of stories that made me feels real good. Because over the years you’re competing against each other. Those aren’t stories you’re ever going to share with somebody that you’re competing against. But at this stage, it felt absolutely wonderful to hear these things.”

Bryant brought his wife and kids to the game and he was elated to share the moments with them.

“My kids were sitting right behind the bench,” Bryant happily exclaimed, “so I was talking to them virtually the whole game. They’ve enjoyed this as much as I have, coming to these arenas. You know, they’ve seen me throughout the years get up at 4:00 in the morning and work out and train and come home and work out again. So it’s awesome, as a father, for them to be able to see all the hard work and how it pays off.”

We asked Bryant about Allen Iverson and Shaq O’Neal being announced as finalists for the Hall of Fame.

“Shaq obviously on a more personal level, having played together for so many years and winning three championships, right, and all that he’s meant to the game, and meant to me personally. And AI as a competitor, he drove me to be as obsessive, more obsessive about the game, because I had to figure out how to solve that problem, you know? And I told him — I saw him here this weekend. I said, ‘You don’t realize how much you pushed me.’ And I don’t think people nowadays realize how great he was as a player and how big of a problem he was for defenses.”

When asked if he talked to NBA legends Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson during the weekend, Bryant noted that he did not feel the role of caretaker after Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Isiah Thomas retired, but he did want to represent the league and himself.

“For sure there was a lot of concern voiced from the elder statesmen, including Magic,” Bryant recalled, “about what kind of caretakers AI and I were going to be for the game. Oscar and I have spoken throughout the years sporadically. Russell and I have talked more often, and he’s given me a lot of great advice on leadership and competitiveness and things of that sort.

“But as far as the league, when we first came in, it’s always the younger generation that comes in and it’s just like the elder statesmen says this younger generation has no idea what they’re doing. They’re going to absolutely kill the game. The game, when we played, was pure and all this kind of stuff. Hey, man, that’s always the case. When we came in, we were just young kids that wanted to play, and AI was aggressive. It was a newer generation, newer culture, but I think when David Stern changed the dress code somewhere in between that, that helped, I think. But, yeah, I think the game is in a beautiful place now.”

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich the winning West coach said: “It’s kind of bittersweet. You remember all the struggles against him and all the competitiveness and you respect him so much for bringing it night after night after night. You know, a lot of players don’t understand that responsibility to be able to do that at that level, and he does it fiercely for all these years. So to see him now, it’s like the passing of a generation and he’s been such an iconic figure for so long, and he passes it on to that other group of young guys that you saw out there tonight. So I’m just thrilled that I was able to be here and see that.”

Stephen Curry interjected: “The entire night was very memorable, for sure, with Kobe’s entrance during the starting lineups and the tribute video, Magic Johnson giving a speech about him and his legacy to some highlight moments. Then the curtain call at the end that you knew it was coming, but you didn’t know what part of the game and the feel that the crowd was going to give, and it was amazing. Kind of got goose bumps out there. Kobe means something to everybody individually as a basketball fan and including us, as players. So you kind of have a lot of different thoughts about what he means to the game and how he inspired others and me growing up. I’ll remember that for sure.”

It may have been Bryant’s farewell, but the NBA ballet went on. In particular, I talked to NBA Hall of Famer and Slam Dunk judge, George “Ice Man” Gervin about the slam dunk contest results. I kind of thought that Aaron Gordon’s dunks were enough to at least earn him a tie if not the win in the most talked about contest since Dominique Wilkins vs. Spud Webb.

“I have to admit that Gordon put it down,” Gervin told me, “but he had a number of misses before his great dunks. Zach LaVine nailed his on the first try. We had to give it to him based on that.”

In all it was a special weekend for me and I was elated that Bryant, a person I have known since he first came into the league was feted, but being in Canada made it even more special.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII

 

Guns: Will Obama be able to score a touchdown for common sense?

In Uncategorized on December 30, 2012 at 1:54 am

By Leland Stein III

Before I start this discourse let’s take a look at the words of The Second Amendment. It says: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

belcher wife

KASANDRA MICHELLE Perkins, Jovan Belcher‘s dead girlfriend, with daughter Zoey Michelle Belcher. Right, Belcher of the Kansas City Chiefs.

When any human looks at the words of the Second Amendment, which was ratified in 1791, in a historical context it should be obvious that the country did not have a valid military, just finished a war with Britain, was in a constant war with Native Americans as we took their land, did not have immediate communication modes and roads to connect people as they moved across America, they needed guns to hunt for food and keep bandits at bay.

All that has changed as America has become the biggest military conglomerate in world. The National Guard was founded in the early 1900’s and the goal and purpose of the Second Amendment in reality was changed forever. We now have the marines, army, air force and city and state police.

No way in the Founding Fathers’ wisdom could they have envisioned that this country would have nuclear weapons, planes that can fly and drop bombs in one’s doorway, food available in close by stores, refrigerators to store food and the ability to just pick up a phone and talk to a person a thousand miles away.

President Obama speaks in Newtown, CT.

President Obama speaks in Newtown, CT.

I was covering the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China when a mentally deranged man lost it and stabbed two people in a crowed area before he got his butt kicked. By the way, our communist Chinese brothers’ police, like the democratic British Bobbies, do not carry guns. Imagine police that do not even have to carry a weapon to police its populace; that concept is unthinkable in American society where cops routinely get killed.

Later in the media press tribune in Beijing when the word got back to us, almost all concurred: “If this has been in the United States that guy would have shot at least 10 to 20 people before he was stopped.”

We all said that matter of factly and went back to our business of covering the 2008 Olympic Games. This is just business as usual in my beloved country.

Recently one of my media colleagues, Bob Costas, during halftime of “Sunday Night Football” pushed for gun control following Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher’s killing of his 22-year-old girlfriend and himself. That gun left a young baby mother and fatherless.

Reading from an article written by another sportswriter Costas said: “If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kassandra Perkins would both be alive today.”

Just as fast as one can say Jumping Jack Flash, the Tea Party Republican conservatives blasted Costas on social and the national media.

“I think Bob Costas owes America an apology,” former South Carolina GOP executive director Todd Kincannon tweeted, “and I think he should be fired from Sunday Night Football,”

Herman Cain called Costas’ remarks “sanctimonious dreck” on Twitter, linking to an article called “Excuse me, Bob Costas, but you’re an idiot, so shut up.”

“Shame on NBC & Bob Costas for that embarrassing anti-gun screed,” tweeted 2008 Romney staffer Ted Newton.

People wrote in and said they tuned in to watch a football game and not listen to Costas rant about gun violence. What is happening in America? When the word gun comes up a vocal populace of America seems to control the discourse, and, in fact, has our elected leaders scared to even mention gun control.

Just like the now misguided holding on to the Second Amendment, one hears people all the time say that, it’s not guns that kill people, it is the people. I submit, that just like in Beijing, if there were no guns involved, mass killings that have become chic in America could never happen.

Now after the tragic Newtown, Connecticut carnage where a heavily armed man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and within minutes, 26 people were dead at — 20 of them children.

With the death toll at 26, the Newtown shooting is the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, behind only the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech that left 32 people dead. This one brings the assault weapons charge into greater focus as it only took a couple minutes to blast off shot after shot. Reports note he even had enough clips to fire another 100 rounds.

Facts: The United States has the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world, twice that of the country with the second highest rate. The United States also has the highest homicide rate of any affluent democracy, nearly four times higher than France or the United Kingdom, six times higher than Germany. Guns are involved in two-thirds of all murders in the U.S.

I do not want peoples’ guns for hunting and protection, but assault weapons have no place in a civilized society. The rest of our close friends (countries) have already figured this out . . . why can’t we?

“It’s our first job,” said President Barack Obama, referring to protecting the young. “If we don’t get that right, then we won’t get anything right. That is how we will be judged . . . Can we honestly say we are doing enough to keep our children, all of us, safe from harm? If we are honest with ourselves, the answer is no . . . we are not doing enough and we have to change.”

It is crazy a 1791 law rules our 2012 sensualities and now its consequences leaves us with a professional athlete and girlfriend dead and a school full of dead innocent people. And that is not to mention that in America’s inner cities youth are dying every day at a rate that is mindboggling.

When will the debate over the Second Amendment yield to a debate about violence, people and living in a real civilized society?

Can Obama bring a real common sense perspective to this killing machine called America? The facts are we regulate food production, toys and car manufacturing more than we do to gun control. In a nation that has enlightened the world in so many ways, but is a coward in confronting that we have 15 times more gun violence that any other country in the world.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII

Proposed Ilitch Downtown Detroit arena could be linchpin for area.

In sports column on December 18, 2012 at 11:46 pm

Detroit a sports entertainment venue, get Ilitch development done

Ford Field hosted Super Bowl and Comerica hosted MLB All-Star Weekend.

Ford Field hosted Super Bowl and Comerica hosted MLB All-Star Weekend.

By Leland Stein III

Wake up Detroit movers and shakers! This is a crucial time that calls for bold moves and long-term vision, not only for Detroit, Michigan’s largest city, but the entire state.

Now that the Ilitch organization has finally put it out on the table their vision for building a new entertainment district downtown anchored by a multipurpose arena that would be home to the Ilitch-owned Red Wings, and hopefully the Pistons, I say make it happen with the quickness.

As Detroit continues to dig itself out of the economic disaster of 2007 that sent the city, state, country and the auto industry on a precarious and uncertain future, this proposed venue would give the Motor City an enormous shot in the arm.

All of Detroit leaders need to look at transformation Indianapolis and San Antonio undergone. Two smaller cities that were both seeking to define themselves. Each city recognized and acknowledged the future and regenerated themselves as sports entertainment venues.

Leland Stein III

Leland Stein III

Indeed sports and walkable entertainment collectively is the new model to ensure a city’s rotation in hosting the mega-sporting events like the Final Four, Super Bowl, NBA All-Star Weekend and many other sports and entertainment events.

Sure there are those that will Detroit’s finances, the many vacant homes, and the continued Urban American homicides. Distracters will talk about the neighborhoods needing special attention and rightfully so. However, the dynamics of inner cities in America is a national problem of economics, employment, shifting population, and old infrastructure.

But one problem is no reason to hold up another potential uplift. If indeed the proposed multipurpose arena is commenced, it would not only host hockey and basketball, it would host a range of shows, concerts and other events, while the broader district would include residential housing, retail shopping, office space and more.

What more needs to be said? The City Council, Mayor’s Office, and state government needs to all get on board and help turn this vision into a reality.

I have been to both San Antonio and Indianapolis and seen how the new model of building all their sports venues in a walkable proximity. In conjunction with the arenas and stadiums hotels, eateries and housing have evolved.

Take the Los Angeles Staples Center for example. I was in LA when the developers started building the arena and many said who will perform there and that it was a waste of money and resources.

Well, the Lakers and Clippers and Kings after seeing the venue quickly abandon their arenas. The Staples Center has galvanized a three block district called LA Live that has clubs, restaurants, theaters and hotels.

The LA downtown area before the Staples Center and LA Live was built was a waste land of poverty.

A number of cities have shown us how a city came use the sports entertainment model to regalvanize a downtown and city.

An Ilitch family’s Olympia Development news release quoted George W. Jackson Jr., the city’s top development official and president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., as saying the plan “makes good” business sense.

“It’s not a plan for an isolated, single-use structure,” Jackson said in the statement. “Instead, it builds on the clear successes we’ve already had downtown integrating districts that feature entertainment, and support commercial, retail and residential development around them.”

The Ilitch organization pegged the probable price tag at $650 million. Legislation introduced in Lansing would create a new “catalyst development project” that could benefit from support from the Michigan Strategic Fund and also from the use of Downtown Development Authority tax revenues that support projects in the central business district.

“It’s always been my dream to once again see a vibrant downtown Detroit,” said Mike Ilitch, chairman of Ilitch Holdings, in the statement. “From the time we bought the Fox Theatre, I could envision a downtown where the streets were bustling and people were energized. It’s been a slow process at times, but we’re getting there now and a lot of great people are coming together to make it happen. It’s going to happen and I want to keep us moving toward that vision.”

I too had this vision. So let’s keep it moving Detroit.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter at LelandSteinIII

USA Basketball on top of the World

In sports column on September 10, 2012 at 3:48 pm

USA Men celebrate gold in London Games. Leland Stein II photo

By Leland Stein III

LONDON – The United States Women’s and Men’s Senior National Basketball teams have proven that the round ball is truly  American’s game. In spited of the fact international men’s teams had over 20 players presently playing in the NBA, as opposed to the 1992 Dream Team having only 6 NBA players were on their  international teams.

The USA Basketball foundation and organization is now firmly planted on solid ground and during the 2012 Olympic Games it once again proved that the best basketball in the world is played every year right here in the NBA.

The linchpin behind the USA Men’s resurgence has been the inclusion of Jerry Colangelo as the Managing Director of USA Basketball Senior National team in 2005. He promptly hired Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

USA Women win 5th consecutive gold medal at the Olympic Games. Gary Montgomery photoColangelo has confidently rebuilt the program from the bottom up. Obtaining the involvement of the NBA’s top players (Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James) and naming Duke University’s Hall of Fame mentor Mike Krzyzewski as the USA National Team head coach.

In the 2004 Olympics the USA Men earned a bronze medal and in the 2006 FIBA World Championships the US Men earned another bronze.

“Coach K (Krzyzewski), LeBron (James) and I met in Las Vegas to discuss being a part of the US team,” Carmelp Anthony told me, following his joyous Gold medal victory. “He said it would take a commitment, but in the end it would be worth the effort. LeBron and I are the only one’s remaining from the original teams in 2004. We endured the ups and downs and now we have put together a system that works.”

Added James: “Coach K and I have been a part of the whole USA rebuilding process. We share the same Olympic tract and that makes this win even that more special. I made a commitment to be a part of this. It was a long journey to get to 2008 and now 2012, but eight years later we are back on top.”

Through the solidifying efforts of Colangelo and Krzyzewski along with the commitments of Anthony and James, and, the wooing of Bryant in 2007, the foundation of USA Men’s Basketball is entrenched.

In the 2012 Olympic Games Final, a rematch with Spain, young upstart Kevin Durant scored 30 points in a contest that featured 16 lead changes and six tied scores no matter, the U.S held off Spain for a 107-100 win to capture the Olympic gold medal.

While Anthony and James earned a second gold medal in a third Olympic appearance; three more were members of the gold-medal winning team in 2008, Bryant, Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Playing in their first Olympics were Tyson Chandler, Anthony Davis, Durant, James Harden, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and Andre Iguodala.

“It was very emotional,” Bryant said starring at his 2012 gold medal. “You just kind of think back on the journey, so to speak. Being here for your last go-round, wearing USA on your chest, it’s very emotional.”

Meanwhile, for the USA Women it was business as usual. Since the inclusion of the women in Olympic Basketball in 1976, where the Soviet Union won the first two Games, the US Women captured its unprecedented fifth-straight Olympic gold (dating back to 1996), a feat never before accomplished in any women’s traditional team sport, the USA women have compiled a 41-game Olympic winning streak that began with the 1992 bronze medal game.

This time around the U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team posted a 86-50 win over France at North Greenwich Arena in London, England.

“You know, you go into every game thinking that there’s going to be some things that you have to do, and if you do those things you’re going to have a chance you can win it,” said Geno Auriemma, USA and University of Connecticut head coach. “France was probably playing as well as anytime I’ve ever seen them, since I’ve been the coach.”

Said Candace Parker: “I think that this is just so sweet to get the second one. You can stumble on a championship once, but it’s really hard to do it twice. And for USA Basketball to do it five times in a row, that’s truly special.”

The gold medal is a third for Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings. While Seimone Augustus, Sylvia Fowles, Swin Cash, and Parker also earned their second gold. Tina Charles, Asjha Jones, Angel McCoughtry, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen all got their first gold.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or at Twitter @lelandsteinIII

Olympic pioneer, activist Dr. LeRoy Walker

In sports column on August 28, 2012 at 1:07 am

By Leland Stein III

I remember having a one-on-one interview with NFL legend Jim Brown in his Hollywood Hills home. He invited me to his house and gave me unexpected access to him and his life.

I asked him why, he said: “We have to tell and document our own history.”

That interjection from Brown has stuck with me my entire writing career, and, with the recent passing of Dr. LeRoy Tashreau Walker, 93, it only reaffirmed the objective of the Black press to me.

People all know about Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, so why isn’t Dr. Walker’s name mentioned in the same category? As the London 2012 Games continue to unfold, I continually hear in the Olympic circles the legend of this exceptional man.

Walker, who was born in a poor area of Atlanta in 1918, was taken to Harlem at the age of nine by his brother, Joe, after his father, a railroad fireman, died. According to historical writings, he worked in Joe’s barbeque restaurants and window cleaning business to earn money during the Great Depression.

Leland Stein III

Being the youngest of 13 children he was the one sent away because they could not feed that many mouths. When he got sent to Harlem at about 9 years old, he became the only one in his family to go to college.

In his long life, he overcame poverty and discrimination to earn honors as an athlete and coach, but he also was an academic. He was the first African-American to earn a doctorate in biomechanics, and he went on to become chancellor of N.C. Central University from 1983 to 1986.

Amid all of his other accomplishments, all his firsts, all the ground he broke and trails he blazed, it was the connections Walker made, for himself and for others, that really define his legacy.

As the first black coach of an U.S. Olympic track team, the first black president of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the track coach who would one day become university chancellor, Walker became an international figure knowing everyone, and everyone knew him. He could move in any crowd, the kind of person who knew Jesse Owens as well as George Steinbrenner. His funeral, at Duke Chapel drew a crowd from all corners of the world.

When Dr. Walker became present of the U.S. Olympic Committee he quickly noticed that the powers that be were all white males. So in his educated manner he did not attack the USOC; instead, he put together a business plan to a grant foundation and they gave him money.

Walker took that money and cajoled the USOC to match the contribution. He created the Project GOLD Initiative that selected 100 men and women throughout America to come to the USOC headquarters in Colorado Springs to create a talent pool of people for possible selection on the USOC Committee or a National governing body (i.e. USA Basketball, Gymnastics, Swimming or Track and Field).

For some reason I was chosen from the nation-wide search for the Project GOLD Initiative. There I got to meet and know people from all over the country. However, the one the stood out to me was Dr. Walker.

He took advantage of his status as the USOC President and pushed all for inclusion, and, fortunately out of thousands of Americans I was included in the process.

From Dr. Walkers’ outreach I eventually was appointed to an US Olympic Committee.

The Olympics are a one of a kind international event. It embodies all that is good with humanity, competition, dedication, nationalism, and human excellent in a given genre.

Sure the terrorist in our world recognize that the Olympic Games is the biggest collective of humanity it our world, so there have been Olympic moments where politics turned to violence.

No matter, since Dr Walker selected me as a worthy candidate for an USCO appointment in 1996, I have covered every Olympic Games since, and, what an eye opener to the world it has been for me. That is exactly what Dr. Walker told me about what he wanted Project GOLD to accomplish.

Walker became a member of more than a dozen halls of fame, but his most impressive legacy maybe not in what he accomplished, but in what he inspired and enabled others to achieve.

Walker was an inspiration for me and is the main reason I will be headed to London for the 2012 Games as one of only four members of the USA Black Press.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or at Twitter @lelandsteinIII

Segregation handcuffed Jesse Owens

In Uncategorized on August 28, 2012 at 1:00 am

2012 Olympics fresh in our minds, PBS recalls Owens’ run through America’s segregation policies

By Leland Stein III

ImageWith the 2012 London Olympic Games in our rear view mirrors, it seems appropriate to revisit one of the great legends of the Olympic Games.

Leland Stein III

Doing my usual channel surfing, I came up on a PBS documentary an “American Experience: Jesse Owens.”

Most sports aficionados, and history buffs, know of the legend of Owens; however, his compete and dehumanizing degradation delivered by America’s intense racial separation kind of got lost in the real picture of this oxymoron of a man.

Even today, over 70 years later, many Americans take pride in recalling how Owens undermined Adolf Hitler’s theory of Aryan racial superiority by winning four gold medals (100-, 200- , 4×100-meter relay, and, long jump) at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

“Jesse Owens,” directed by Laurens Grant and written by the frequent PBS collaborator Stanley Nelson (“Freedom Riders”), is a level and striking production that suffers from its shortness: about 52 minutes. There’s not much time to get below the surface, and Owens’s troubled post-Olympic life gets particularly abrupt treatment.

The triumph of this “American Experience” documentary on Owens, who died in 1980, is that it enshrined his Hitler greatness without ignoring the depressing extent to which Owens’ own country also treated him as second class citizen.

As an Olympian in that time, he was under the authority of U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) chief Avery Brundage (an acknowledged racist), who admired Hitler and infamously replaced two Jewish sprinters on the 4×100 relay team because it could have further embarrassed Hitler if they won.

After embarrassing Hitler in his own stadium in 1936, Brundage stripped Owens of his amateur standing, effectively depriving him of the chance to make a living from his skill. For years after the Olympics, this superb athlete was relegated to a sideshow — until finally, in 1955, President Eisenhower made him a national “goodwill ambassador” promoting the high ideals of America.

However, before Eisenhower’s benevolent spirit, Owens had to race against horses and other degrading actions to support his family.

Just like Joe Louis, who knocked out German champion Maximillian Adolph Otto Siegfried Schmeling, and in spite of their color each became an American hero; however, like Owens it did not carryover to life in America. Louis was attacked by the IRS and it destroyed his life. Owens fared no better.

But the irony of both their lives in segregated America was that they did not outwardly complain. Maybe it was the times, where many thought it was better to go along to get along. The fact of the matter is it was life threatening to oppose the status quo.

In fact, Owens in the 1968 Olympics of the African-American’s discontent with how they were being treated at home, spilled over into one of the most famous protest in USOC history, the Tommy Smith and John Carlos black gloved raise fist during the American national anthem.

No matter how badly treated Owens was by the establishment, his nemesis Brundage, help recruit him to talk to the African-American athletes while at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. The threat of protest was in the air and the USOC wanted Owens to help defuse it. In fact, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar brought the discontent to the forefront, by refusing to join the USOC Basketball team.

With American cities smoldering in discontent and hungering for change and equal rights, the athletes ignored Owens’ cajoling, all but George Foreman, who won the heavyweight Olympic title and pranced around the ring with two American flags. He was scorned by the black community on his return home.

Foreman told me in an interview that he was a young country boy that had no understanding of the complexity of life and the anger of his fellow African-American Olympians. He said he was just happy to be there and out of his situation at home in Houston.

Carlos and Smith became the poster boys of standing up to the injustice that was permeating American society, while Foreman and Owens took on the appearance of Uncle Toms.

For me Owens is an almost preternaturally graceful and heroic figure, asserting his will despite isolation and scorn even greater than Jackie Robinson had to face. But he also represents the power of segregation at that time, when a man of his caliber was so beat down he was afraid to challenge inequality face-to-face.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com and Twitter at LelandSteinIII