Lessons from the basketball court

For those of us who love sports and the Lord we know the traditional “sports verses” in the Bible:

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:12-14)

 “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. 9:25-27) 

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31)

And who can forget everyone’s favorite?

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13)

Those verses (among others) are popular verses for athletes to recite and train with and the truths of those verses run deeper than the waters they swim and contain promises lasting longer than the yardage of plays they complete.

But have you ever thought about John 10:27 as a “sports verse”?

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” -Jesus

I certainly had not. But that was before.

Before I became sports editor of The Murray State News. Before I started writing for the Associated Press. Before I fell in love with the Murray State Racers basketball team.

Before I started listening at basketball games.

Have you ever stopped and just listened at a basketball game, particularly a game showcasing the skill and splendor of an undefeated Top-25 ranked team?

Donte Poole goes for a
layup before the Racers
beat Memphis 76-72 and
 earned their first Top-25
Ranking of the season.
Photo by Sophie
McDonald/The News

Well, my job as sports writer requires a whole lot of listening and a whole lot less cheering (OK, no cheering) and it’s amazing what you see (and hear) when you just be still and listen.

Let me break it down for you:

You walk into The Bank (the CFSB Center in Murray, Ky.) and the smell of popcorn hangs in the air and the blaring music greets you with exhilarating force. You find your way to your seat among the sea of blue and gold and begin talking, laughing and carrying on with your friends. After a few minutes the pep-band begins playing, the cheerleaders are leading the place in chants to boost school spirit and the announcer booms over the loud speaker the starting lineup of the visiting team. Then it comes down to No. 15 Murray State (16-0, 4-0).

The Racers before defeating
Lipscomb 89-65 Dec. 15.
Photo by Sophie
McDonald/The News

All eyes go to the screens hanging in the CFSB as music that somehow seeps into your veins produces an adrenaline rush while the screen flashes highlights from Murray State’s history.

You can’t help but get pumped up.

Finally the announcer gets to the Racers’ starting lineup and the place goes nuts. Screams go up all over the arena and stay that way after tipoff and well into the first half where Isaiah Canaan already has over 20 points and 3 assists and Donte Poole is landing the 3s in seemingly effortless fashion.

Murray State fans are one of a kind.
Photo by Sophie McDonald/The News

Despite the crowd’s screams, loud enough they border on ridiculous, the squeaks of the shoes on the court, the managers and player’s shouts and communication, the announcer’s shouts–“Jewaunnnn Longgg, 3-point shot!”–and the thumping of the basketball on the hardwood that matches your heartbeat, there is one thing the players must zone in on.

In the midst of what seems like the entire world either clapping or booing them, players have to calm themselves down enough to listen to the one voice that knows the game better than they do. The voice that can offer direction, guidance, wisdom and experience beyond the players’ abilities.

The voice of their coach.

I watch from my seat on press row and see Ed Daniel, Latreze Mushatt and Stacy Wilson pass the ball around the court with a final pass to Canaan who dribbles in place while the shot clock runs down. Everyone in the CFSB Center is on their feet and in the midst of the cheers, whistles and middle-aged men scorning and mocking the referees, Canaan looks to one person- coach Steve Prohm.

Prohm shouts direction and commands and Canaan does the only reasonable thing- he obeys.

Steve Prohm speaks with
Isaiah Canaan during the
Lipscomb victory. Photo by
Sophie McDonald/The News

You can continue the game in your head if you want, the Racers finish the game up by 10 and remain unbeaten. What seems like the entire town is packed into the CFSB and they celebrate the victory in true Murray State style.

My point is this: Our Christian walk is not that different from the life of a basketball player.

We have an enemy who wants to see us go down while a world is screaming at us to give into the pressure and temptations. We have a support system and a crowd behind us (our brothers and sisters in Christ) but despite all the distractions and obstacles we must zone in and listen to the only voice who can take us to victory safely- the voice of our coach, the God of the universe.

We have to know His voice, but knowing it isn’t enough. We have to follow its instructions, we have to trust, we have to obey.

In a phone interview last month, Ivan Aska told me how the Racers keep winning. Like the rest of the players, he said it all comes down to their beloved coach.

“We’re going to bring it all to the table because we want to win and have fun and he’s telling us to have fun and if that’s what the master is saying that’s what we’re going to go out and do,” he said. “That’s how we do it.”


And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how it’s done. You go out there and do what the Master says and indeed great victory will follow, because when you honor the Lord, He will honor you. He promised.

“Far be it from Me, but those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed.” -1 Samuel 2:30

Trust your coach. Look to Him. Know He will never do anything to lead you astray- He wants victory just as badly as you do. All we have to do is follow our coach in obedience. Don’t overcomplicate the process.

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One thought on “Lessons from the basketball court

  1. Cheryl Tyler says:

    very well written-there is no doubt in my mind that you have honored God with this terrific piece. Well done thou good and faithfull servant.

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