Theology of Basketball

Basketball Court_Landscape

“The game of basketball has been everything to me. My place of refuge, place I’ve always gone where I needed comfort and peace. It’s been the site of intense pain and the most intense feelings of joy and satisfaction. It’s a relationship that has evolved over time, given me the greatest respect and love for the game.”

– Michael Jordan

(I realize the specific nature of this, but maybe there is some connective activity in your life that is similar.)

There are parts of my childhood that were good.  I have memories of playing, silliness, and innocence.  They were moments of naive ecstasy.

However, there was a lot of heartaches too.  Death, including my mother’s, was somewhat normative.  We were always stressed about money and in the latter years of living at home, things like alcohol and some other questionable activity plagued our home.

In college, there was that natural liminality.  You know, that “who am I?”  and “what an I here for?” questions that leads to changing your major multiple times and taking twice as long to graduate.

Eventually, I got married, children were created, houses were bought, jobs were accepted and then quit….

My point in telling you all this is that there were two constants that I was engaged with through all of that: God and basketball. I know it sounds silly to make basketball Holy, but it has been that for me.  It has been something I played before the fallenness of the world hit me.  A basketball court was the equivalent of a therapist’s couch from ages 16-25.  In my late 20’s and early 30’s, the game became an avenue for me to reach out to others.

Basketball now is a “3rd Place” to me.  I can now use a court as a pulpit where I can preach the Good News with a crossover.   Where I use to use the game as an ego boost and a place to talk *#&@, now I use it to build community/connection and now my words are rooted in encouragement.  God was grooming me to reach a group of boys on a slab of concrete on High St. 20 years ago… I just didn’t know it.

My point is:  I see the Gospel in this game.  Playing basketball was there for me through “my creation, my fall, and my restoration”.  Playing basketball is where I’ve had interactions with the Holy Comforter.  When playing now, I can see how I’ve grown up.  I can see patience, gentleness, and self-control that’s now there but wasn’t before.

There are many areas of life where I struggle to see what God is doing, but when I’m playing ball, it’s no question for me.

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

1 Cor. 9v25-27


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