I first met Bernard Ward, when I was directing a documentary about his long time friend, Demetrius 'Hook' Mitchell. Hook was a streetball legend and Bernard was known for his skills in his own right. When I went to Bernard's home for the first initial interview, a young man emerged from a back bedroom, who was quite tall, but a quiet speaker. Leon Powe, at the time, was a junior in high school, and Bernard had taken him under his wing after a series of unfortunate circumstances that had befallen upon his family. Now, that Leon has a NBA championship ring thanks to his stellar play for the Boston Celtics, their relationship continues to flourish. I have always believed that Leon and Bernard's bond is one of the greatest examples of the power of mentoring. I am pleased to share with the GlobalGrind community a conversation I had with them this week.
Bernard: I first met Leon when he used to hang out with my younger brother (Samuel Freeman) in middle school. My younger brother was a knuckle head and stayed in trouble, so I assumed Leon was a knuckle head too. A couple years later, I ran into Leon and he approached me about playing basketball. I figured I could use basketball as a means of keeping him out of trouble.
Leon: I first met Bernard when I was hanging out with his little brother Samuel. We hung out in the neighborhood trying to see what we could get into and Bernard was always checking Samuel because he would get into trouble a lot.
Bernard: Leon was very open and completely accepting of me. He didn’t have a male figure in his life that he respected, so he looked to me for guidance. I took him almost everywhere with me, constantly talking to him, working with him in school, and exposing him to things that he wouldn't normally be exposed to. The only challenge was improving Leon's grades. Everything else was easy. Once Leon began to trust me and a few things I said came to light and worked out for him, everything else just fell into place. It took some help getting his grades together, but as long as I was behind him, encouraging him and not allowing him to fail or waiver, he stayed on track.
Leon: I thought Bernard was a cool dude. He always had a ball in his hand and would ask Samuel about his school work and tell him to stay out of trouble. Samuel always respected Bernard and looked up to him, so I did too. Bernard has this voice that triggers your attention, so when he speaks, you listen. Before I met Bernard, I wanted to be a lawyer, but at the time, I knew I didn’t have the grade