- Inspiring Lives
- Overcoming Obstacles and Challenges
- Race and Society
- Social Justice
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A renowned tennis player, James Blake regales his audiences with his experiences with overcoming adversity and the value of perseverance.
Former Professional Tennis Player James Blake is no stranger to obstacles. He began playing tennis through an inner-city sports program that engaged underprivileged youth in athletics. At the age of 13 he was diagnosed with severe scoliosis and forced to wear a back brace 18-hours a day. He battled through the challenge and went on to becoming a two-time All American at Harvard, leaving after his sophomore year to pursue tennis professionally.
As a rising star on the tennis circuit, Blake’s future looked bright. That quickly changed after a debilitating year in 2004 that included a broken neck, the loss of his father, and contracting a disease that deteriorated his sight, taste, balance, hearing and paralyzed the left side of his face.
Blake battled loss and overwhelming adversity to get back on the court. In 2005 he was presented with the Comeback Player of the Year Award. Blake’s career boasts many accolades including 10 ATP Tour singles titles, 7 doubles titles, top ranked US player, Davis Cup champion for USA and the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year.
Through his challenges, Blake gained perspective and gleaned important lessons that he uses to help others in the face of adversity.
James Blake's Speech Topics
While his way back to the tennis court after debilitating injury and illness, Blake learned a paramount lesson – set attainable goals.
In this presentation, Blake talks about the power of goal-setting and how attainable, daily goals boost confidence and enhance your life.
Ways of Grace
Like many people of color, Blake has experienced the effects of racism firsthand—publicly—first at the U.S. Open, and then in front of his hotel on a busy Manhattan street, where he was tackled and handcuffed by a police officer in a case of "mistaken identity." Though rage would have been justified, Blake faced both incidents with dignity and aplomb.
In Ways of Grace he reflects on his experiences and explores those of other sports stars and public figures who have not only overcome adversity, but have used them to unite rather than divide.
Weaving together poignant and unforgettable stories, Blake reveals how, through seemingly small acts of grace, we can confront hatred, bigotry, and injustice with virtue—and use it to propel ourselves to greater heights.
Works by James Blake
Breaking Back: How I Lost Everything and Won Back My Life (opens in a new tab)
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Vice President, Analytics and Basketball Development, Miami Heat; 2012 & 2013 NBA Champion, Miami Heat