Kevin Atlas, formerly known as Kevin Laue, has become one of the top inspirational speakers in the United States following a basketball career at Manhattan College.
Atlas, who in 2009 became the first person with one arm to earn a Division I basketball scholarship, teamed up in February of this year with Varsity Brands, the market leader in sport, spirit and achievement to educate students and faculty about the incredible power of "believing in yourself."
Atlas, joined SportsJam host Doug Doyle, from Sacramento, California, where he's getting ready for his upcoming wedding and publicly announced for the first time his new book "Get In The Game" is coming out in October.
Atlas, has a powerful message for all of us and is blessed with a delightful sense of humor.
"Very excited (about his wedding), just have to figure out where to put the ring, since I'm missing my left hand. I'm just kidding. That's a bad joke."
Atlas admits it's tough getting through to youth calling them the toughest audience in the world , especially early in the morning, but he stresses it's a worthwhile venture to make a differenc in their lives.
And the students do react.
"When you speak to a bunch of high schoolers at 7am in the morning and don't want to be there and walk away at 8am with a standing ovation, that's an art right there, that's some Picasso-level stuff."
Atlas jokes that the fact that he' s a redhead and is technically a giant are more of a disability than not having a left hand. He talked about the word "disability" during the interview.
"I would say that it's in your mind. I honestly truly believe, especially when it comes to basketball, it wasn't the limitations in what I could do or not, it was the limitations on what other coaches and prospects could believe I could do. That was my true disability, proving to others that I was capable. If you learn to hone in and own your weaknesses and learn to love them and embrace them, you truthfully don't have any weaknesses, therefore you're not disabled."
Doctors say Kevin was born without a left hand because his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck in the womb and that stunted the development of the arm.
Atlas also had to overcome the early death of his father. The California youngster was 10 years old when his father passed away. His mother died a year ago.
"I'm very blessed to have both loving parents influence me with the time I had with them."
After being cut from the 7th grade basketball team, Atlas didn't give up. His next coach showed him how to embrace his short forearm which Atlas calls his "nub" and use it as a force on the court. It worked. Kevin gradually improved his game and had an outstanding basketball career at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, California. Shot blocking was his specialty.
His achievements led President George W. Bush to fly to California to meet Kevin in person during his senior year. Later that same night, Kevin would break his leg during a basketball game. His college scholarship offers went away.
After graduation, he enrolled as a postgraduate at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia for the upcoming season. In March 2009, he made history when he was awarded a scholarship from Manhattan College and became a Jasper.
The intimidating shot blocker played three seasons at Manhattan College, starting three games his second year. His time there was limited by injuries.
"I had a pretty severe shoulder injury in my right shoulder. I was working out a little too hard and I tore it. The big unfortunate part about having the one arm is that when most people break an arm they can compensate with their other one, but I had to continue to use it. I had three different coaching staffs in the three years I played at D1 and you know it was begrudging a little bit. I felt like many athletes do that you need a full opportunity to shine they way you want to. That said, I'm so happy in the present that I can't really look in the past."
In 2013 Kevin Atlas' amazing story became the subject of highly acclaimed documentary titled, Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story.
His "Believe in You" video series has already been shown in thousands of classrooms. The Challenge is designed to inspire very every coach, administrator and student to take action and support one another.
The 29-year old calls NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was one his childhood idols. He talks about his memorable encounter with Kareem on SportsJam. Besides liking basketball and being giants, they also both like visiting jazz clubs.
You can hear the entire SportsJam with Doug Doyle featuring Kevin Atlas by clicking at the top of the page.