ML Carr Projects Grace and Sincerity
September 8, 1991
M.L. Carr, the former Boston Celtics basketball superstar, sometimes describes himself as a keyed-up person whose restlessness is at the core of his enormous drive.
Carr's powerful personality can be summed up in one word: intense. What makes his intensity attractive is that as a 6-foot-6 athletic giant, he moves and talks with amazing grace.
Besides, his signature smile vibrates sincerity.
Beneath the good will is an iron will, a determination to excel at almost any cost. Early on, he had to learn how to convert and to channel his frustrations into positive energy. Carr had to discover that this is the secret of all champions.
As a teen-ager, he thought he could knock sense into his oppressors. In this Ritz-Carlton interview, Carr, a handsome 40-year-old self-employed entrepreneur in an impeccable pin-striped suit, saysthat at age 15 he was arrested for his involvement in a racially motivated fight in his hometown of Wallace, N.C.
"I joined a group of black teen-agers fighting a group of white teen-agers who had insulted some black girls. I was determined to retaliate. We really got into it downtown. I landed in court.
"There I was reminded by the authorities that my father was an upstanding citizen and that I had an upstanding upbringing. But, in my heart, I thought I had to get even. I was rebellious. I was put on probation for six months and warned that if anything like this ever happened again, I would be sent up. This had to be a nightmare for my father.
"Then someone put a basketball in my hand. It fit perfectly. Suddenly I understood that the basketball could become a release for my mutiny."
Carr, - the guard/forward who played for the Celtics from 1979 to 1985 and made a reported $ 315,000 per season (plus bonuses in his championship years) - continued to rock the boat. After his public fight, he engaged himself in a quiet fight that ultimately produced the result he wanted: integration on a friendly basis.
"I kept an appointment with Dr. Blair, my dentist. As usual, the colored sat on one side, the whites on the other.
"I walked right past the coloreds and sat in the white section. I thought that people should be bound, not separated. I was integration-happy.
"There were two fountains: one for us, one for whites. I walked over to the white fountain and I drank. People on both sides stared at me. I said nothing to Dr. Blair. He said nothing to me. But from that day on, his office was integrated."
Carr's father warned him that he had taken a dangerous chance. Carr's answer then - and it remains the same now - is that he wanted to be noticed and to make a noticeable difference.
Carr now lives in the Boston area and maintains his office in Wellesley. He heads three firms: M.L. Enterprises, a business development and consulting firm; Carr Corp., which sells products he describes as environmentally friendly; and Sports Fantasy Contracts Inc., which sells framed and unframed multimillion-dollar pseudo sports contracts to dreamers.
His favorite job is speaking about motivation to high-school students.
"A champion is a person who maxes himself out. When you think you can't take another step, you run on. The champion in the business world is the person who won't take 'no' for an answer. You take 'no' to mean 'not yet' and you keep moving toward your goal.
"A big vision, a big dream, is achieved on the basis of one step taken many times. Ultimate victory is based on the momentum of little day-to-day victories.
"I tell students to remember this: The sweet thing about a setback is the opportunity to make a comeback."
"Mental toughness comes from preparation," says Carr. "If you just go through the motions of a job, you achieve nothing."
From where did his steely determination emanate?
Carr says that he watched his father accept the economic and racial barriers of his times. He wanted to brush past them. His father told him repeatedly that he'd get nowhere without an education. Carr, who's full name is Michael Leon Carr, is a 1973 graduate of Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C.
"Often enough, perhaps too often, I'd say to my father: 'When I grow up, I'm going to get me a $ 100,000 home. I'm never going to live in a house like this.' I'm sure I hurt him. But he only reminded me that I couldn't get a $ 100,000 house without an education.
"In my freshman year in college, I wanted a car. I said to my father: 'I'm going to drop out of school to get a car.' My father's reaction was that if I had a car, I'd spend my time driving around instead of studying.
"Finally he said: 'Go ahead. Drop out. Buy a car. You've already beat me in terms of education. I never got past the third grade.' This was his way of reminding me again that an education is important.
"I didn't drop out."
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