Southwest Florida is full of incredible people who use their talent to impact the lives of others in our area. In her Living the Legacy series, FOX 4’s Shari Armstrong works to share those stories with you.
Upon first glance, you’ll notice Walt Wesley is calm, collected, and…tall.
Standing at 6’11, you can image that he used that height to bring nothing but heat to the basketball court and to the Southwest Florida community for many years.
Walt Wesley says he is proud to have been born and raised in the Fort Myers community of Dunbar.
“I graduated from Dunbar High School in the class of ’62’”, he tells Fox 4.
Since then, Wesley’s been pretty busy.
At age 21, he completed his collegiate career while on a basketball scholarship at the University of Kansas.
That led to the beginning of his professional career with the NBA.
“I was originally drafted by the Cincinnatti Royals who are now the Sacramento Kings.”
Some of the teams he played for include the Chicago Bulls, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Philadelphia 76’ers and the Los Angeles Lakers - of which he retired in the 1970s.
Though it hasn’t been independently confirmed by FOX 4, many people in the community believe that Walt Wesley is the first player from Fort Myers to play in the NBA.
From the court, Wesley went to the sidelines.
He spent 19 years coaching teams, including his alma mater (the University of Kansas_ and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Wesley would later return home to Southwest Florida with a different title and leadership role.
He became the first director of the Dr. Ann Knight S.T.A.R.S. Complex in Fort Myers.
Wesley would later lead the Police Athletic League (PAL) using a range of sport to impact the lives of local children.
His involvement in youth programming is all about empowerment and education, he says.
“The youth need to know something about the history of things and how they develop over the ages,” Wesley says.
Walt Wesley is a part of that history - often sharing hard truths about his experience as a basketball player during the Civil Rights Movement.
“You were subjected to a lot of name calling sometimes in areas where you played…people sometimes throwing concessions at us.”
Wesley is now enjoying retirement, he says.
But his nearly 20 years in youth service, and his entire basketball career, are actively being remembered.
Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson recently declared April 5th as “Walt Wesley Day”.
A moment, Wesley says, made him feel good - but, he quickly reminded FOX 4’s Shari Armstrong that even in this recognition …it is still all about the kids.
He hopes it motivates them, he says.
“It’s another incentive for them to do certain things in life.”
If you know someone who should be featured in our Living the Legacy series, send an email to email@example.com.