The sports landscape is cluttered with athletes who have fought to perfect their craft since they were children. Most professional athletes begin to make a name for themselves on the high school level. They pick up a sizeable fan base while in college, and then move on to become adored by millions as they achieve success at the professional level. That is the goal at least for everyone who laces up a pair of Jordan’s or Converse.
But, there are some athletes that don’t achieve star status. Finding their natural gifts becoming all too mundane, or their work ethic below par some players just find themselves to be mediocre at best. They determine to find a niche, play roles or commit themselves to being quality utility players. Never the guy a franchise hangs their hopes on, but always the guy who GM’s give contracts to and coaches give minutes to because they can add value.
Well, Charlie Bell is one of those guys. Many of you have no idea who I am talking about. But, if you love Michigan State basketball, his name is very recognizable. One of the beloved “Flintstones”, Charlie Bell grew up with Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson, playing basketball together from the time they were in elementary school. Together the three of them helped the Michigan State Spartans to the 2000 Men’s National Championship. A wonderful achievement that brought the school, made famous by alum Magic Johnson, back into prominence.
I loved watching #14. He was smooth, a lot like Sam Perkins. He was gutsy and played defense with a passion. The four years he played for the university, he won the Michigan State Defensive Player of the Year award. But, he was so much more than just a defender. He also was a solid ball handler and floor general. In his final year at MSU, with Cleaves beginning an NBA career, desperately needing a difference maker in the lineup, Bell pushed his team forward as the point guard. Charlie Bell did what it took to win, and he had the desire, leading his team into the Final Four.
But, like many before him, Bell found the NBA to be uninviting. He went undrafted, and after a short stint with the Suns, eventually made his way to Europe. His career there began in the Italian League with Benetton Trevisio where he helped them win a title in 2002. He then went on to become a local hero in the Spanish League playing for Leche Río Breogán Lugo. There he worked on his game and eventually found his way back to the NBA.
Currently, Charlie Bell plays for the Milwaukee Bucks. This year he is averaging 8.2 pts a game along with 2.1 assists. Wearing #42, he isn’t easily recognizable, but when you watch him move around the court you can tell immediately it’s him. He’s thirty years old now and far from the player he was as a boy. The crowds aren’t enamored with him like they were when he was a Flintstone. But that’s life. Charlie Bell has done a good job with his. He does what he loves and many basketball fans may have forgotten about him. But, I haven’t. I still remember him playing for MSU and rooting for him.
Thanks for the memories Charlie. Keep playing hard.