Pass The Ball

A few days ago, the sports world was rocked with the awful news that 9 people had died in a helicopter crash. The victims were girls’ basketball coaches, mothers, fathers, a pilot, and teenage girls. Among them was soon-to-be Basketball Hall of Famer- Kobe Bryant.

As I reflected on these tragic events, I was reminded of something I wrote back in 2018 that I have found eerily relevant for today. Feel free to check it out here: Life and Basketball.

Kobe played in the NBA for 20 years and through those 2 decades, I can remember cheering both for and against him. His incredible skill matched with his relentless work ethic helped form him into one of the best to ever play.

But Kobe was not perfect. Off the court, he had legal issues that put a strain on his family. While, on the court, he often would feud with teammates and, especially in the first half of his career, was known for being incredibly arrogant. However, despite those imperfections, Kobe worked hard to mature as a person and a basketball player. He worked to repair the damage done to his family and now is remembered as a loving husband and father who championed the efforts of female athletes. In the basketball world, he became a mentor to many young players and worked to repair broken relationships with old teammates. He went from a “punk kid” straight out of high school who made many mistakes, to an elder statesman of basketball and a good role model to many.

His journey to maturity is inspiring and should be seen as a wonderful example.

While reflecting on the recent tragic events I found myself, like many, watching videos of Kobe highlights. I found myself watching portions of his final NBA game where he scored an incredible 60 points. It was the most “Kobe” game I could think of. He took 50 shots, rarely passed the ball, (in fairness because others simply wanted to see him score) and was the hero in crunch time sinking 2 free throws to put the game out of reach and secure the win.

But the thing that struck me the most from his whole performance wasn’t the shooting or the slick moves. It was his final stat recorded as an NBA player.

An assist.

Kobe Bryant’s final act as an NBA player was to pass the ball.

Wow. Incredible. First, that’s incredible because he was not necessarily known for sharing the ball. Secondly, and more importantly, it was symbolic.

In the final seconds of the game Number 24 collected a rebound and then made a beautiful near-full court pass to a young player second-year player who then threw down a flashy dunk.

Kobe had passed the torch.

In life, torch-passing is an essential need. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to teach, mentor, and pour into those that are younger than us.

As followers of Jesus Christ, it is imperative that we are teaching, training, listening to, supporting, and championing younger generations.

There are numerous examples of this found in the Bible. Moses trained Joshua. Elijah taught Elisha. Paul mentored and supported Timothy. In each of these cases are excellent examples of experienced followers of God pouring into younger believers for the good of God’s people.

The Bible also commands parents to raise their kids to know and love God and His Word. (Proverbs 22:6) As well as to share with children all of the wonderful things that God has done. (Joshua 4:6-7)

The church of Jesus Christ needs to invest in younger people. You need to invest in younger people. I need to invest in younger people.

I have talked about the issues of being “Too Young For Church” as well as “Too Old For Church” in the past. Feel free to give those a read.

But the point is, if we are going to reach more people with the Good life-giving news of Jesus, both now and in the future, then we need to be including people younger than ourselves.

It’s all for the glory of our God and the good of our team.

If Kobe could pass the ball, so can you.

Life and Basketball

Basketball is fun and exciting. But basketball in the month of March is…really really fun and really really exciting!

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is one of the most dramatic events in all of sports. Each year, without fail, the Tourney is filled with nail-biting finishes, dominant performances, and feel-good underdog stories.

Just a few days ago I was watching the last few minutes of a game, right as my wife and I were getting ready to leave for dinner. I had never watched either of the two teams before (and my bracket was busted) so I didn’t care who won or who lost. But let me tell you, those last two minutes were so incredibly entertaining. Every other play was met with my audible response. I stopped getting ready and stood, just a few feet from the T.V., with my eyes wide.

“Honey look at this replay!” I exclaimed at one point.

I was so enthralled with the game that I was undeterred by my wife’s apathetic response.

The game ended, I finished tying my shoes, and I walked out of the house with an adrenaline rush. Basketball in March is awesome.

Each team, whether they are an underdog or powerhouse, they all have one final goal. To win. To cut down the nets and be declared the best. To be champions. To leave a legacy. To have that “one shining moment.”

But “one shining moments” only last for a moment. Unforgettable plays eventually become forgotten. Champions are replaced, and last year’s records don’t count for anything the next season.

As I watch this year’s tournament I can’t help but think about the brevity of our lives. I know, I admit that is a strange thing to think about during an exciting game, but it’s true. Life is short. It occurred to me the other day that this year, and actually for a few years now, I am older than everyone playing in the tournament.

Just like that, in the blink of an eye, I’m an old man. Ok, that’s a tad bit dramatic, although my wife does keep finding grey hairs on my head. But the truth is still true, life is a lot shorter than we give it credit for.

With that being said, here are a couple of verses and thoughts that come to mind.

Isaiah 40:8 says that the grass withers and the flowers fade. You know what else withers and fades? Hearing and eyesight. But the verse doesn’t stop there. It continues with, “but the Word of our God will stand forever.” I can’t think of many more comforting words than that. God’s Word is full of promises and encouragements for those who put their trust in Him. If his Word endures forever, then that means that His promises to us endure forever as well.

Hebrews 9:27 says, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” Each and every one of us will have to give an account for what we do here in this short brief lifetime. Even those who trust Jesus will have to give an account for their actions or inactions. What we do in this life, even though it is short, really does matter.

Ephesians 5:16-17 says that we should be, “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” We can’t afford to let opportunities slip away from us. Each and every moment is important. As John Piper would say, “Don’t waste your life!”

What we do in this temporary life impacts our eternity. Yes, life is short, but Jesus came to earth to ensure that all who put their trust in Him don’t need to worry about perishing, but instead He offers eternal life. Real and lasting life can only be found in Jesus. He gave us a “one shining moment” on the cross that will last forever.

Soon the Sweet 16 will become the Elite 8. Then the bracket will be whittled down to the Final Four. After that, there will be a champion (*cough* Kansas…erhm what) and just like that, the tournament will be over.

Soon you will get older, and sooner than you realize, it will be your time to exit the tournament. What kind of effort will you give? What kind of legacy will you leave? Will you be a champion?

“Only one life,’ twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

-C.T. Studd