Opinion | Kofi Cockburn is a person too


Photo courtesy of David Craan/Illini Athletics

Center Kofi Cockburn dunks during the game against St. Francis on Dec. 18. Columnist Caroline Tadla believes that Cockburn should be treated and seen the same as an average student.

By Caroline Tadla, Columnist

Atlas was punished to carry the weight of the world upon his shoulders by Zeus. Are we subjecting Kofi Cockburn to the same fate?

If you fall into the slim portion of the University population not familiar with Cockburn, he is the center for the Illini men’s basketball team. He is 7 feet tall, and according to Illinois Basketball’s Twitter, he is fourth in the nation in scoring, third in the nation in rebounding and has 35 career double-doubles as of Dec. 23.  

He is a superstar and a sensation, but before he is the basketball team’s leading man, he is first and foremost a person.

Ponder the pressure faced by an average college student. However, imagine instead of worrying about finals or running out of dining dollars, being responsible for campus morale and being drafted to the NBA.

The mental toll this pressure of fame and heightened expectations thrusts upon Cockburn must be immense and occasionally it manifests itself in his tweets. For example, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice,” “Before you judge someone about their anger, ask them about their pain,” and “It’s always how tall are you? And never, how is your day going?”

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Whether these tweets were meant as comical quips or cries for help, it calls attention to a side of Cockburn not often seen by the media or fans, a side that wants to be treated like everyone else. We should consider there might be a part of Cockburn that doesn’t want to be giving autographs, taking pictures or being stared at all the time.

This is not meant to say his performance reflects any personal worries, as he could be fine and appreciate the love from fans. However, people cannot forget the human experience’s fragile nature. One should not simply be defined by their “fame” — let alone anyone as young as Cockburn. It would be a shame if we valued his talent over him as a person.

Troy Bolton’s dramatic declaration that “Sometimes, I don’t want to be the basketball guy; just a guy,” stands true to any individual delivered to fame by basketball. Although he plays ball, Cockburn is not required to play the fame game — let Cockburn lead his life.

Caroline is a freshman in Media.

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