Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Nevil Shed visits University as part of King week activities

Nevil Shed, whose college basketball career became a symbol in the struggle for civil rights and an inspiration for a 2006 feature film Glory Road, showed up at DU on Jan. 8 with his arm in a sling and his heart in his words.

The 6-foot 8-inch Shed, whose experience winning the 1966 NCAA basketball championship with his Texas Western teammates was chronicled in Glory Road, was injured in an automobile accident. The accident happened shortly after he had arrived in Denver to help the University kick off a weeklong series of Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations.

“The good news is that tomorrow I will see my wife again,” Shed told a Diversity Champions luncheon Jan. 8 at the Ritchie Center. Refusing to be halted by neck pain from the accident, the affable Shed smiled broadly and quipped: “I started my 2007 speaking engagements with a bang.”

A motivational speaker and consultant for the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA, Shed became a civil rights pioneer when his underdog Miners, coached by Don Haskins, upset the heavily favored University of Kentucky Wildcats to win the Division I national title. Haskins started an all-black team for the first time in NCAA tournament history, defeating Kentucky’s all-white five and becoming a symbol that helped dismantle racial stereotypes and expand opportunities for black athletes.

“Remember the part in Glory Road when the black player tries to tell the white player that bad is good?” Shed teased the luncheon crowd Monday. “All I can say is ‘Chancellor Coombe, you’re bad!’ ”

Shed’s praise referred to the Chancellor’s introductory remarks in which he had poignantly retraced tragic events of the 1960s that included protests, war, civil unrest and the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and King.

“First-year students were born 20 years after Dr. King was shot and all of those years are history to them,” Coombe said, observing that the duty to share history with these students is the ongoing job of “all of us who were alive back then.”

“Diversity is the soil from which ideas grow,” Coombe said. “And the root of all that is in the violent days of the ’60s and the work of Dr. King.”

For Shed, sharing the past means speaking of his own role in the civil rights struggle, which he did before about 350 listeners at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts on the evening of Jan. 8.

The heartfelt, inspirational speech reminded listeners of Shed’s tough upbringing in the Bronx, N.Y., and the rough road that took him to a victory greater than the win itself.

Shed’s visit was a marked contrast to his first trip to the University of Denver in December 1964. That occasion, his first road game for Texas Western, put him up against the DU Pioneers.

Sighed Shed: “We lost by one point.”

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