SCHERERVILLE — Cliff Levingston, the 6-foot-8, two-time NBA champion Chicago Bulls forward, really scored at Thursday’s Salvation Army Community Civic Dinner.
The Whatever It Takes fundraiser at Halls of St. George drew more than 120 guests to also honor Strack & Van Til Food Market.
Levingston’s theme centered on what it takes to be part of a team, roles each person needs to play and what it takes for the team to be successful.
“People need to understand the boundaries of each and every team member, and you need to do your job first, then ask if someone needs help,” he said.
When he started his professional basketball career as a first-round draft pick in 1982 with the Detroit Pistons, Levingston said he had to learn the best way “to get onto the floor” because there were so many outstanding players.
“I became a defense player and rebounder,” he told the guests. “I had to stop someone (from getting the basketball).”
The same scenario happened when he was traded to the Atlanta Hawks, he said.
“I had to find another way onto the floor and make my contribution in order to make my success,” said Levingston, who credited a former basketball coach for turning a “wayward youth” into a team player.
Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan were among the Chicago Bulls when Levingston signed on with the team.
“I had to defend and hustle and beat up Scottie Pippen every day at practice and stay on him,” he said about his role. “If you came to practice, you’d think we were enemies.”
However, that helped Pippen and the team.
Levingston ended his professional career with the Denver Nuggets.
“I’ve been blessed to have played in nine out of 11 postseasons,” he said.
Raised in San Diego, Levingston attended Wichita State University and Indiana State University before being drafted into the NBA.
“I love the Midwest. I love the seasons,” he said. “My goal was to get my family to a better place.”
A man who has always preferred to stay behind the scenes now works in Michigan City mentoring and coaching basketball teams at Marquette High School.
“I started working with the boys basketball team and three years later they won a state title. It’s not about me. It’s about the team,” Levingston said. “Now I’m working with the girls. They just won a state championship.”
Levingston said he never imagined that he would be a coach and mentor.
“I tell kids you can have all the doors opened for you, but if you don’t do what is placed before you, you took an opportunity from another kid who has worked his butt off,” he said.