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.

Our GOOOOAL!

This just in: The World Cup is a pretty big deal.

Alright, I admit it, I am an American and I actually really enjoy watching soccer. (Football/Futbol)

This year, to the disgrace of some and obliviousness of most, Team USA failed to qualify for the Fifa World Cup.

This is a pretty big deal. First, television stations lose viewership (because many Americans only care to watch soccer once every four years) and, more importantly, there is now one less reason for groups of strangers to boisterously chant U.S.A., U.S.A.!

I couldn’t help but laugh, quite literally out-loud, a few days ago while listening to a local sports talk show. The radio hosts were asking World Cup/Soccer questions and listeners were calling in to answer with the incentive of a prize. The funny part? There was only one listener out of ten that answered his question correctly! This was a sports talk show talking about the world’s most popular sport, and no one had a clue what they were talking about. We may be just a bit ignorant.

But, my intentions today are not to shame us Americans into liking soccer or even caring about the World Cup. (You should though, but that’s just my humble opinion.)

Instead, I hope to give us all a bit of perspective.

There are approximately 7.4 Billion people living on our planet. 3.4 Billion of those people are watching the World Cup live on T.V. Yes. You read that correctly. Nearly half of the total world’s population is tuned in. That is staggering!

Soccer has a pretty cool way of bringing people together.

Just imagine all the hundreds of languages shouting GOAL! Imagine the thousands of cultural backgrounds represented. The millions and millions of hopes and dreams. The multitude of fox-hole prayers being prayed in the 92nd minute of extra time.

And the 3.4 billion individual stories.

We need to have perspective.

This is a big world, and a big world can only belong to a big God.

When I think about the sheer size and scope of the influence of the World Cup I can’t help but revel in the fact that all its grandeur pales in comparison to a future, worldwide event.

Revelation 7:9-10 says, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”

Can you imagine it? Pause right now. Try really hard to just imagine a great multitude of people that no one could number. Now imagine that whole mass of people is from all sorts of different backgrounds, languages, cultures, and skin colors. Now realize that they are ALL united and together worshiping their creator and savior.

That is an incredible picture. Heaven is going to be so much better, and bigger, than a World Cup Final, no matter who is playing.

Yes, soccer does have an incredible way of bringing people together, but Jesus does it so much better.

Galatians 3:28 reminds us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The unity that Jesus brings is permanent and much stronger than any human-created thing. That is just one of the many reasons why, we who know Him, must always be ready and willing to share about Jesus and His incredible love.

Our main GOAL in life ought to be to share the good news of the Gospel.

So, yeah. That what I think about when I watch World Cup games…that and how the Ref clearly missed that offsides call!