The Patriotic Dissenter
Illini Star Kofi Cockburn Also Very Socially Conscious
today at 10:26 am
When the Illinois Fighting Illini are good, they truly are/become Chicago’s college basketball team. We really saw that in 2005 and the immediate years that followed. While the program metaphorically fell off the Chicagoland map for most of the 2010s, it roared back to life last season with a Big Ten Tournament title and a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Unfortunately, the Illini crashed out early, at the hands of another local team- Loyola University Chicago. However, they could be just as good, if not better this season, led by their star center Kofi Cockburn, someone who is truly more than an athlete.
Cockburn made everybody’s preseason All-American teams, and he’s the main reason the Illini have some decently favorable odds for making the Final Four, and perhaps even more. The best NJ online casino list will tell you where to go to bet on March Madness, where you’ll see Gonzaga as the favorite to win it all. They are typically backed around +700, with Michigan, UCLA and Villanova next in line, usually priced in the range of about +1200. The Illini can be had, at most sports books, for about +2000, odds that put them just outside the top ten most favorable.
So it could be a special year in Illini land, another Champaign campaign, but it mostly hinges on how far the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year can carry them. Cockburn is both a modern day Shaq and a classic, throwback big man. He’s a true low post, bang down low, pound it inside kind of big man, and he will overpower plenty of overmatched opposing defenders this upcoming season.
But beyond all that, he’s a special human being. Illini head coach Brad Underwood has discussed this many times during preseason media availabilities. At Illini Media Day he discussed what a nice guy Kofi is, and how he’s always smiling, as “he never has a bad day.”
The seven foot, 300 pound Jamaican center, who emigrated to New York City, is also a very thoughtful and progressive young man. Last year, he gave a media Zoom call while wearing a shirt that read “more than an athlete,” and I can’t think of a more appropriate way to describe him.
“Everybody knows what’s right from wrong,” Cockburn said on the call.
“I don’t understand, can’t we all agree that racism is a nasty thing? So why doesn’t everybody else understand? Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.”
The Kingston native went on to say that he has never really witnessed in Jamaica, the level of racism that he’s seen in our country.
“Coming here and witnessing it, seeing how insane it is, it’s really important we use our voice,” Cockburn said.
“Especially since we have this platform where everybody is watching us and people look up to us.”
Cockburn spoke out about the crisis of systemic racism in the United States, and what some Americans are doing to try and eradicate it:
“People are hurting. Put yourself in their shoes. What if that was happening to you or your family member. You would want to speak out against it.”
He also discussed the activism of NBA players, and how inspirational their work with the Black Lives Matter movement has been.
“The NBA inspires a lot of kids, a lot of people,” he said.
If NBA does that, the kids are really going to gravitate towards that. When the kids do that, hopefully the parents might do that too.”
It could be a very special year for Kofi and the Illini on the court. And off the court, it’s a tremendous opportunity for Cockburn to spread his message of uplift.
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Bank (TheSportsBank.Net) and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”
He has regularly appeared in WGN, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune, and co-hosts the After Extra Time podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
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Paul M. Banks
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now and Minute Media. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and ChicagoNow.
He’s been a featured guest in dozens of media outlets including The History Channel. His work has been cited in hundreds of publications including the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.
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