On the one year anniversary of the loss of Pat Summitt, it’s important to know that her legacy will involve much more than just basketball.
The word “legendary” is one that is thrown around an awful lot in the world of sports. Unfortunately, most of the time it isn’t really warranted seeing as truly legendary events or people are exceedingly rare. To be a legend you need to be bigger than that sport. You need to transcend what people think it is capable of, go beyond it and somehow make it look easy when everyone knows it isn’t.
Pat Summitt fit that description perfectly.
The list of Summitt’s accomplishments is too long to list, but in her time as the head coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Vols, she just about did everything a coach could do with a program and then some.
Summitt won eight national championships, the third most titles for any basketball coach, men or women. She had a record of 1,098 wins and just 208 losses, never had a losing record and is the only Division I head coach other than Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski to have more than 1,000 victories.
Summitt had 36 players selected in the WNBA Draft and produced 21 All-Americans, 39 All-SEC players and 14 Olympians. Her Lady Vols went to the Final Four 18 times and won 32 combined SEC titles and championships.
She has won just about every honor they can give a basketball coach, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2012.
“Legendary” might not even be accurate enough to describe the career of Pat Summitt.
But even with all those accolades and titles, in the grand scheme of things Pat Summitt’s legacy will be about something far more important.
On August 23, 2011, at the too young age of 59, Summitt announced she had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. For those fortunate enough not to know, Alzheimer’s is a terrible form of dementia that takes away a person’s memories and ability to function. To see it strike someone as vibrant and talented as Summitt was a shock to just about everyone.
Later in 2011, Summitt formed the Pat Summitt Foundation, an organization that works towards finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. Towards that end earlier this year The Pat Summitt Clinic opened its doors at the UT Medical Center. There they are doing the research needed to find a cure and a way to treat the disease that eventually took her life on June 28, 2016.
In the years after she announced her diagnosis, Pat Summitt has become the face of Alzheimer’s, a disease that does not get nearly the attention or money it needs. Thanks to her and the Foundation she created, that is slowly changing and maybe a way to stop this disease from taking any more loved ones will one day come about.
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Pat Summitt meant a lot to a whole lot of people. Yes, her career in the world of basketball is something she will always be remembered for. But for others, it is the work she did making people aware about Alzheimer’s and raising money after she left the hardwood that will leave more of a lasting impact.
And I’m sure if you asked Summitt, she would much rather be thought of as legendary for that than for any of the awards and titles she won as a head coach.
As folks have been saying on social media all day, #ThanksPat. Rest in peace.