What a run of madness that was. In the end, those who like upsets may have been a little saddened that the number 1 seed overall won the whole thing. But they didn’t have an easy run of it. They trailed by more than 10 in both the semi-final and final. They had to deal with one of their teammates going down to what I’ve heard many say is “the worst injury I’ve seen in sports”.
Peyton Siva, the only senior on the team is the team captain, and as you can read in this article
from USA today, Siva had a very difficult home life growing up. The most well shared part of his story is the day, at age 13, when he took his brother’s car and drove around to various seedy parts of Seattle looking for his drug addict father. You can read this Sports Spectrum article about Siva’s deep rooted faith in God and spiritual leadership for the team. He plays by the motto “Its All Jesus”.
Now, as one of the best players on the championship team, it isn’t surprising that he and the rest of the Cardinals were able to overcome the injury to Kevin Ware. So why does an injury like that happen? Who knows? But some cool things that have come out because of it.
If you watched the game last night, then you know that Cardinals Luke Hancock was instrumental in Louisville’s comeback. He was rewarded with the MVP award). They were down by a dozen when he started going on a rampage of 3 pointers that keyed a 14-1 run right before halftime. But it was Hancock’s actions during the injury to Ware that really amazed me and challenged me. As you can hear in interviews and read in this blog by Cory Nikkel (warning: He links to the injury video not for the faint of heart), Hancock quickly made his way over to his fallen teammate, put a hand on his chest and prayed for Ware. Check out the picture from USA today. Hancock says he was moved to be by Ware’s side because he had suffered an injury last summer and remembered his teammate that came and stayed by his side – that meant a lot to him, so he knew he had to be that guy for his injured teammate.
I have 3 thoughts to share about this story.
1- Serving God and Loving others can get messy and uncomfortable.
Others instincts was to turn away, to cringe and even to throw up. I am not condemning the natural reaction – it is natural! But Hancock opted to go into the place of pain and suffering and be with the one dealing with the pain. We are called to that, too. To meet people in need where they are, and to be there to comfort and pray for each other.
2- Our desire to help others is motivated by our own experiences.
Hancock felt compelled to go over to Ware because he remembered how much he didn’t want to be alone when he was injured. God wants to use the experiences we have in our lives - positive and negative – to help others.
No one had seen anything like this before. No one really knew what to do, how to help. Prayer can go a long way in those situations. We are told to pray continuously and as we listen to the Holy Spirit, we will be helped with what to pray for.
Very cool that all these things from this team pointed to God. Congrats to Louisville for their Championship run!
The reason this time of the NCAA basketball season is called “March Madness” is because there are so many crazy story lines
happening all at once. There are 347 division one college basketball teams and these are (arguably) the best 68 in the NCAA. Only 1 of these 68 teams will win their final game of the season, and that will be the champs, crowned in a week’s time as the champs. Now I am only a casual fan of the NCAA basketball. I’m as likely to flip a coin to fill in my brackets as I am to think through who I want to win (I actually did 1 bracket each way this year, and have Marquette winning in both)
The tournament, has it all – gutty players playing through injury, teams dealing with injuries to star players, upsets, bad calls. In short, there are lots of reasons to watch, and lots of reasons to get excited. And then there are the buzzer-beaters. Those last second shots that determine the outcome of a particular game. We had one yesterday, a 3 pointer drained by Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, ending the season of the Iowa State Cyclones. Read about the Madness from “the Lantern” (Ohio State newspaper)
Aaron Craft is a Junior guard for the Buckeyes. And as you can read in this article from “The Lantern” Craft is a natural leader who is growing in his responsibilities to the team and in his faith in God. The article talks about how he got connected with Athletes in Action (AIA) on campus and how that keeps him grounded in the face of expectations for the basketball season. You can also read more about Craft in this article from Sports Spectrum Magazine.
I’ve read over and over again about people understanding who God is and who He is calling them to be through programs like these. It all starts with a bold faith and a willingness to share the message of Jesus unashamed and unafraid. There are lots of ways that society can look down on us or insult us because of our faith. But that doesn’t matter compared to what God can do through us when we are obedient. AIA, FCA, IVCF (InterVarsity Christian Fellowship) gives people a place to grow in their faith and boldness and it is changing lives! If you are looking to grow in your faith or boldness, maybe a group like this on your campus is worth checking out.
Both articles that I read about Craft and OSU basketball mentioned the players on the team that had graduated and moved on, leaving the program in the hands of the current team. It can be easy to sit back and let others lead – especially when they are good at what they do. But now the leadership is being passed on. Sometimes, we treat our faith like this. We sit back and watch what others are doing for a while, staying in the background. But the time will come when God asks us to step up and live out his purposes. Will you be ready? When the trials of life come, we will need Christ as OUR foundation so we aren’t destroyed. There are no sidelines in this game. God calls us all to action.
Well, it is that time of the year. A little madness in the middle of March. 68 teams have made it to the “Big Dance”. There are 4 play in games that will cut the field down to the Final 64. One of the teams at the “dance” this year is Liberty University from Lynchburg Virginia. Liberty is a Baptist University and was a long-shot to make it to the tournament, especially after they started 0-8 and had their best player Antwan Burris on the shelf for the whole year with a foot injury. It looked like a long season for the Flames.
But then they started to turn things around a little. They started to win a few games here and there. At the end of the regular season, they were considered an incredible long shot to win their conference. But then they went on an amazing run, beating team after team that should have put an end to their season. They won their conference championship and earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament – a spot in a play-in game, becoming only the second team in history to make it to the tournament with 20 losses in a season. Now say what you want about automatic bids and whether or not the Flames deserved to be there or not, but it sure has been a great run for them. There is something to be said about peaking at the right time. You can read more about their season in this article from Washington Post.
Coach Dale Lever has been the coach of the Flames since 2009. He had been an assistant coach at Liberty, then took a job as assistant coach at Marquette with Buzz Williams (who I blogged about a year ago – read it here). As you can see in this video by Sports Spectrum Magazine, both Layer and women’s basketball coach Carey Green have a strong faith in God that guides them as men and as coaches, not only to strive for success on the court, but more importantly, success in what God has called them to do- disciple their players, lead the team and reflect Jesus while doing so.
They are humble men, desiring nothing beyond God’s plan for their programs. There are a lot of parallels between the role of a coach and our Christian faith. It is important to have mentors that will teach you, challenge you, expect you to stretch yourself and continue to grow in your faith. We will never reach a place where we can’t know God more. There isn’t a college basketball program whose players don’t game plan or practice, to make themselves better. A coach will help focus the gifts that the players have, and channel it into a plan that will give the team the best chance for success. The same can be said of a good mentor – He or she will challenge you to grow, to get better and to exceed expectations. They will also be there to give you some guidance, to correct what isn’t working and to cheer you on when you are meeting your potential.
As I type this, Liberty has lost their play-in game by 1 point against North Carolina A&T. This Cinderella’s trip to the ball was short lived, but the impact that Coach Layer has had on these men will go far beyond, and serve far greater purposes then this tournament would ever have allowed on its own. Congrats Flames on a great run at the end of the season. Keep the lessons you learned about God’s faithfulness along the way close by. They will serve you well in the rest of your life.
A father’s dream is often that his son will follow in his footsteps. We all have interests, things that we could effortlessly spend hours doing or even talking about. To have this common ground is great and can build a strong bond between a parent and their child. My father and I share an enjoyment of golf and while neither of us will be playing at Augusta National anytime soon, we have had some good times on the golf course or on the driving range. But that is more of a pastime for both of us – not an all consuming part of our life.
Some sons follow in their father’s career path. That can lead to a close bond, or it can lead to some added pressure. For example, in the Stephen Curry story, his father, Dell played in the NBA for 16 years. Stephen grew up around basketball and played the game throughout his childhood. But despite his father’s successful career, Stephen was passed over by many big name basketball programs at the end of his high school playing days. He agreed to go play at Davidson and went on to post the second highest point average of any freshman in the nation. You can read about his story in an interview with Prodigal Magazine here. The next year, he would lead Davidson on a magical run in the NCAA tournament, leading Davidson to the Elite 8. You can also check out this article from Sports Spectrum magazine about how injuries have slowed him a little, this far in his career, but that he is still a star in the making. Earlier this week, Curry scored a career high 54 points in a game against the Knicks.
My Takaways from this story:
1- God has ways of keeping us humble.
Curry mentions in the Prodigal Interview that if he had played at one of the bigger schools, he likely would have “gotten caught up in the hype and possibly lost my foundation of what I grew up on.” He had become consumed about where he was going to play. To not be offered a scholarship at a “big school” program may have been frustrating for Curry at the time, but he has no regrets about playing at Davidson. He talked about what a great experience he had there. God knows what He is doing. Even when we think He has forgotten us, or let us down, it turns out we are in exactly the best situation for us.
Being the son of an NBA player doesn’t automatically make you an NBA player. It doesn’t even guarantee you a scholarship at a top school. You need to get there yourself. Just like belief in God. Stephen had to work and earn his way to the NBA. Being the child of Christian parents does not make you a Christian. We need to choose to follow God on our own. As a dad, I wish I could make my kids choose to follow God but it doesn’t work that way. We each need to make our own choice to follow God or Not. Joshua, when the Israelites arrived in the promised land, called all the people together and asked them to make up their mind about who they would serve – who would be their God. The same challenge is issued to each of us today. As I think about it, my ultimate goal as a dad, is that if my kids are going to follow my footsteps in some way, it is that they would see that I live my life for God and choose to follow God themselves.
For more about Stephen Curry, check out his web site
The Timberwolves have struggled for relevance in the playoff conversations for a few years now, and while there was hope that things had turned around this year, it is looking more and more like this will not be the year that T’Wolves return to the post season.
Last night was faith & family night at the Target Center, and Luke Ridenour was there to share the story of his faith. He missed the game winning shot at the end of the game, but won the hearts of the ones that stayed after the game to share his story.
Check out this podcast interview with Ryan McNeill at hoopsaddict.com. He shares about how he wants to use basketball as a platform to tell people about Jesus and how he hopes to go into full time ministry when his playing days are over.
You can also read this article about him in Beyond the Ultimate. The article references the verse in 1 Corinthians 4 that talks about keeping your eyes fixed on the eternal. Luke wants his life, his career and all that he does to be lived for eternity. Sounds like a great goal to have for all of us. Let’s look around us to see needs, let’s be genuine with our own faith. Russell Crowe’s character said in the movie Gladiator ”What we do in this life echos in eternity” That is true for us, too. By sharing Jesus with others, God can use us to change their life now and for eternity.
Well, the NBA finals are upon us and it is time to decide which of the two teams in the finals I hope will hoist the hardware in before the end of the month. Regardless of whether you are a King James fan or a LeBron hater, there is something to be said about the Heat’s back to back trips to the finals. Their hunger for a title was left unmet after last years loss to Dallas. They return this time around, but their path to a title is not any easier. They play a young, vibrant Thunder team whose core is under 25 but who also have some savvy veteran pieces that give them a “complete team” feel. So which side are you on?
For me, being a casual NBA fan, therefore, having my allegiances easily swayed, I must admit that I have been won over by the Thunder. They are so young and energetic, and their brand of basketball is so fun to watch. Kevin Durant is a superstar already, and not yet 24. Yet, unlike many in the realm of professional athletics – he is known for his humility that comes from his relationship with God. Check out this story from Sports Spectrum. There has been hardship, pain and through it all, opportunity to build his relationship with God and depend on Him for guidance and direction. He also has been a leader on his young team, even encouraging his teammates to attend chapel services before each game.
You can get more insight from him on his faith in this interview with Chad Bonham at InspiringAthletes.com
Chad Bonham also did an interview piece on another player in this year’s NBA finals. Miami Heat perennial All-Star Dwayne Wade. In this story, we read about the trials that Wade has gone through – on the court as a barely recruited high schooler who would go on to turn heads for Marquette, and off the court with a nasty divorce from his wife, legal troubles his mom went through, his parents relationship splitting up when he was young. There is a lot of pain and difficulty in his story, but through the hard times, his relationship with God strengthened. Even when it comes to the commercial aspect of his career, he is up front with his faith. Check out this ad for Converse, where Wade shares the importance of his faith.
So as the finals start tonight, I am sure that you have picked who you are hoping for. I think OKC will take it in 6 or 7 games, but I am wrong at least as much as I am right. It will be an entertaining series no matter what, and with Wade, Durant and others carrying with them the knowledge of who God is and a desire to serve Him faithfully, God will be glorified which is the best victory of all.