Remember Gatorade’s “Be Like Mike“? Fans of a certain age are probably already hearing the jingle in their heads as they read.  If this is your introduction to the commercial song that the world came to love, it is almost certain to be stuck in your head for the rest of the day once you hear it. Sports fan or not, the public idolized Michael Jordan. Michael has qualities and traits that were unique to him. We idolized the basketball player, but not all people could relate to his athleticism or physical attributes. What all people could relate to was the desire to be your best self.

Michaels’ passion, his commitment to excellence, his understanding of what it takes to be a teammate and a leader, his work ethic, and his resiliency are the traits we all can possess. These qualities and traits aren’t unique to him. It was his command of these traits, his ability to integrate these traits into his daily life and personalize them in a way that empowered him to become the best version of himself that made him truly exceptional. We each have our own unique set of qualities and traits that help to define who we are and who we want to be. The question to ask is do we really want to “Be like Mike,” or are we really seeking the ability to become the best version of ourselves. It is the ability to take ownership of our unique qualities, whatever they may be and use them to evolve into the most true expression of our selves that leads to greatness.

Kalin Bennett, 18, from Little Rock, Arkansas is a representation of Michaels’ qualities and traits while being true to himself. Kalin may be the first student-athlete basketball player with autism to sign a letter of intent for a Division 1 team at Kent State University. Early diagnosis showed Kalin may never walk, and as a child, it was believed that he would be one of the 25-50 percent of people with Austism Spectrum Disorder who would remain non-verbal throughout his life. He didn’t walk until four years old and wasn’t able to engage in meaningful conversation until about eight. Through his passion and therapy, commitment and understanding, work ethic and resilience, Kalen worked to take command over his unique qualities and use them to overcome his struggles. Kalin has undeniably proven the naysayers wrong, as he inspires kids with autism everywhere to follow their dreams — no matter what. Proving to the world that people with Autism Spectrum Disorders can do and be anything, even “Be Like Mike” if they want to.


Kalin wants to make one thing clear — he wasn’t recruited because he has autism. Upon signing his letter of intent and the media picking up his story, Kalin had a message to deliver via Twitter:

“I just want to say one thing I had offers before Kent State and before prep school but the reason Kent and others recruited me isn’t because of my Autism and don’t get me wrong it’s cool to make history but they wanted me because I CAN HOOP AND I LOVE PLAYING BASKETBALL!”.  


While Kalin knows his basketball skills made him the first student-athlete with autism to potentially compete at this level, he knows people will be supporting him on for other reasons as well.

“I want to make an impact not just on the court, but with kids that are struggling with the same things I am,” he told “I want to use this platform to inspire other kids with autism and non-autism. I want to let them know, ‘Hey, if I can do this, you can do it, too.’ A lot of times they feel alone and by themselves, and I felt that same way growing up.”

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