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How a former NBA player from Kansas City overcame illiteracy and earned his master's degree

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Dean Tolson, a former Seattle SuperSonics player who grew up in Kansas City.
Dean Tolson
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Dean Tolson, a former Seattle SuperSonics player who grew up in Kansas City.

Kansas City native and former Seattle SuperSonics basketball player Dean Tolson made it to college without learning to read. Now, he holds an advanced degree, and is advocating for education with a new memoir, "Power Forward."

Former NBA power forward Dean Tolson's story is full of rebounds.

Growing up in Kansas City in the 1950s and 60s, he was a star on the basketball court — but struggled in school. Tolson graduated from high school, went to college and was drafted to the Seattle SuperSonics. But he couldn't read or write.

After years playing in the NBA and internationally, he re-enrolled at the University of Arkansas, determined to overcome illiteracy. Now, he holds a bachelor's — and a master's — degree.

Tolson's story is chronicled in the upcoming memoir "Power Forward: My Journey From Illiterate NBA Player to a Magna Cum Laude Master's Degree." He hopes the story will raise awareness for the importance of education.

"[Forty years ago] I would have thought it'd been impossible, but that's what I want people to understand," Tolson told KCUR's Up To Date. "They can do the impossible if they choose to. Education is not a lukewarm feeling. Education is you either all in, or you all out [sic]."

  • Dean Tolson, former power forward for the Seattle SuperSonics
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