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Posted 07 May 2001   For week ended May 04, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 01May01

By Mark Wright

Playing In the NBA, without the Lifestyle

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA -- In this day of the stereotypical "ugly athlete," with continued reports of misbehavior by professional ball players including spousal abuse, drug abuse, and temper tantrums, it's refreshing to find someone like Mark Madsen. As previously reported in Mormon News, Madsen is both a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a rookie playing for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Madsen, now deep into the playoffs with his Laker teammates, is well-known for his hard-nosed playing on the court and his soft-hearted approach to life off the court. Madsen has been known to apologize to security guards for allowing young fans onto the court for a quick photo-op. Madsen remembers well the lessons that he learned on his mission, looking for opportunities to help others and make a new friend. "He's one of the five nicest guys in the league," says Laker General Manager Kurt Rambis, a former Laker player and fan favorite.

Like other professional athletes, Madsen has plenty of opportunities to engage in the kinds of behavior that bring unwelcome notoriety and intensely probing questions from the press. Living the life of a professional athlete, Madsen clearly sees the world of tempting possibilities that are open to him and simply chooses to walk a different path. "All those distractions, you have to actively seek them out and accept them into your life," he says.

So far, Madsen has not been seeking them out. For example, on a recent road trip, one of Madsen's teammates offered to introduce Madsen to a willing young lady who wanted to spend the night with him. Madsen declined, and used the potentially sticky situation as an opportunity to explain his position against pre-marital sex. These actions are typical of Madsen and lead those who know him well to respect him for his stand. Teammate Greg Foster says, "I, as well as the team, respect him for that. It's unheard of today, and it's refreshing."

Madsen's attitude about life helps him take a lot of pressure off himself by just having fun and understanding that basketball is only a brief part of his life. He continually stresses that he is not really any better or very different from anyone else. "He has life and basketball in proper perspective," says Jim Cleamons, assistant coach of the Lakers. "He doesn't live for the game, but he thoroughly enjoys it." Madsen believes his ability to keep things in perspective is the result of learning to serve while on his mission. "Basketball is not the most important thing in the world," he says.

Although Madsen is living "in the world" of professional sports, he has, at least to this point, managed to remain "not of the world." Hopefully he can continue to fight the good fight and be the kind of role model that other professional athletes cannot or will not provide.


Standing tall: Laker Mark Madsen sidesteps NBA trappings
Deseret News 28Apr01 S2
By Michael Brandy: Deseret News staff photographer


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