Meet a Scientologist—Jim Brewer on the Olympics, Then and Now

Former NBA center and member of the U.S. Men’s Olympic Basketball Team of 1972, Jim Brewer reflects on competing in the Munich Games and the direction his life has taken since then.

For Jim Brewer, of Maywood, Illinois, the Olympics represents more than the thrill of seeing great athletes perform at their best. Forty years ago at the Munich Olympics, Brewer was a member of the U.S. Men’s Olympic Basketball Team. What began as the happiest moment in his life was marred by frustration and sorrow.

“The Olympics are humanity at its best,” says Brewer. “The whole world is there in one place and all the athletes treat each other with respect.”

Munich, however, also brought Brewer face to face with tragedy and injustice, when 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team died at the hands of terrorists.

And, on a personal level, he was brought up short by a decision that turned the men’s basketball final into what is often referred to as “the most controversial game in international basketball history.” The U.S. team, thrilled with their 50–49 win in the last three seconds of the game, ultimately lost the gold medal to the Soviet Union. Because of unauthorized interference from the scorers’ table, those last three seconds were ordered replayed twice and, in the end, the Soviet team took the game 51–50.

Graduating from University of Minnesota the following spring, Brewer went on to play nine years in the NBA including a championship season with the Los Angeles Lakers. But success didn’t bring him everything he had hoped for—there was something missing in his life.

“I just was not satisfied,” he says. “My career was OK, but for me personally, things were just kind of so-so.”

He began reading self-help books and in 1979 he came across Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health by L. Ron Hubbard.

“That book made so much sense to me—the way it explained about the mind, the body and the spirit,” he says. “I saw that something could be done about any problem a person might have.”

In the back of the book he found the address of the Church of Scientology Detroit. He enrolled on courses, read more books, received Scientology auditing (spiritual counseling) and trained as a Scientology auditor (counselor).

“I was very eager to learn how everything was done and see why it worked so well. I just wanted to know it all. And everything I have looked at and experienced in Scientology has been positive,” he says.

His advice to young athletes or anyone who wants to succeed in life is simple.

“The beauty and the joy of living comes from working toward something,” he says. “Just make sure it’s a purpose that’s meaningful to you and something that you enjoy working toward, because you can’t really fail if you continue to pursue those goals in sport and in life. There’s always something to get you closer to what you are trying to accomplish.”

As to his own formula for success:

“I try to think for myself,” says Brewer. “At a very young age, I was doing what everybody else did and what people expected of me and I didn’t feel so good about it all the time. But I think when you look into things for yourself and make decisions based on what you think and keep counsel with yourself, that makes you a lot happier.”

For Brewer, thinking for yourself includes making decisions about recreational and psychotropic drugs. Knowing that athletes are role models for youth, Brewer volunteers with a Scientology-sponsored drug education and prevention program, conducting seminars in Chicago and Texas. He also worked on a program for Milwaukee kids identified as “at risk” by that city’s police department.

“Drugs are demand driven,” he says. “Kids are sold the wrong information—that they should drink and try recreational drugs—they don’t really understand what the effects are. If they know the effects of these substances and where drugs will lead them, they won’t try them, or, if they do, when they understand the down side they will quit. With the largest proportion of the U.S. prison population stemming mainly from drug use and sales, we owe it to our young people to get the word out to them. And that’s what my involvement comes from—just wanting to see things get better.”

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