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Another “bean” sculpture? Proposal to honor Bob Love

Artist's rendering 20-foot Bob Love statue thsupporters want erect outside Cook County Juvenile DetentiCenter.

Artist's rendering of 20-foot Bob Love statue that supporters want to erect outside the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center.

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Updated: July 6, 2012 10:55AM

Bob “Butterbean” Love’s story — from Chicago Bulls All-Star to busboy earning $4.45/hour, then overcoming a speech impediment to rebuild his life — has inspired Chicago area disadvantaged kids for nearly 20 years.

That’s how long Love, 70, has been community relations director for the Bulls, making, the team says, more than 300 appearances a year at schools, charities, basketball clinics and nonprofits. Community groups say he appears more than that.

“I think I was put on this earth to do this. I had to go through some ups and downs and now I have a story to tell,” says Love. “About not ever playing the victim in life, having dreams and never giving up, and just trying to be a good person.”

Now, if some community folks have their way, a 20-foot sculpture of the beloved Bull could rise in front of the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, a place Love has made it his mission to keep kids from going, or at times, from returning.

“He’s just dedicated his life to working with youth growing up in dysfunctional families, who are misguided and going in the wrong direction, or entering places like the detention center,” said Earl King, who runs a community group called KOPS.

King is among a diverse group of clergy, community and corporate leaders who are behind efforts to raise $300,000 for a sculpture that depicts Love, half of him in a Bulls jersey, the other half in suit and tie, kids at his feet.

“Bob Love is bigger than life when it comes to these kids, and the community has long sought a way to return the love he has shown them,” said King.

He stressed the effort is strictly community-driven, yet donations are pouring in.

Love tells kids how after 11 years in the NBA — he was with the Bulls from 1968-1976, was a three-time NBA All-Star, is ranked third on the team’s all-time scoring list and is the second Bull to have a jersey retired — the speech impediment left him jobless.

He tells how at one point, he was washing dishes and busing tables for minimum wage at Nordstrom’s restaurants, when a manager at the retail giant offered to pay for speech therapy. Therapy helped him overcome the impediment and fight his way back.

“Education first, sports second — and never let it be said that you can run faster than you can read, or jump higher than your grade point average,” Love tells them.

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