Many of the articles that are featured on the front page of this paper are focused on human-interest stories, good news, and accolades of those within our community. This month it is strictly from the heart of the editor.
Basketball has been in my blood for years. I remember when my dad nailed a basketball goal up to the pine tree in the back yard for me when I was 5. He would help me shoot because I could not get it all the way to the rim and he would watch me play. When my parents divorced I had the opportunity to spent a significant amount of time in Prichard. There were two sports in Prichard: basketball and football, and most of the time the football game would turn into throwing the football in the basketball hoop. When I moved back with my dad in middle school he bought me an adjustable rim and installed it in the ground in the back yard. The grass quickly turned into a dirt court as everyday my friends and I would get home from school and shoot ball until dark. Teen and adult years would follow and no matter if I were in church clothes or full basketball gear, every chance I got to play I never turned it down.
Recently I became an alumni association member of my alma mater The University of South Alabama for the reason of joining the recreation center. They have some of the nicest basketball courts around this area so my reasoning for joining was simple. I am quickly finding out that it may be time to hang up the basketball shoes in place of golf clubs or something less strenuous on the body. The last time I stepped on the court I played well, but hurt afterward more than I ever had. It is something about our frail bodies isn’t it?
If you watch the news, you have seen that Kobe Bryant, one of the most iconic basketball stars in the world, died in a recent helicopter accident. I took this picture when Nicole and I went to see him back in December of 2010. The Lakers played the New Orleans Hornets, now Pelicans, and we got a chance to sit close enough to the floor to capture some nice pictures. Thankfully I got to see him play a couple more times in LA and in New Orleans, but his fate on the basketball court is the same of all others. The body is not able to perform at the high level and thus retirement is imminent. Watching him play was a joy, but his philanthropic progress since retiring from the NBA and his ever growing love for family brought even more delight.
His tragic death struck me hard because Kobe was not that much older than I, was father and husband, and I was a big fan. In the short period since his death occurred they have interviewed a lot of people. Over and over again, people go back to the same line, “Basketball doesn’t matter.” When I was young, all I cared about was getting home, throwing my book bag inside, and grabbing my basketball. Even as a young youth pastor, I was passionate about coaching basketball with my high school and middle school teams. As an adult the desire to play is there, but basketball really doesn’t matter. If all our focus is on a sport or skill, we have missed the goal.
So, what is the goal? The Bible very clearly instructs us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Regardless if it is basketball or basket weaving, if we replace the love that we should have for our creator God with something else we have missed poorly. Again I ask, what is the goal? The goal is LOVE. Kobe was not perfect, but neither are you and neither am I. We will fail. Let me say it again for the people in the back, WE WILL FAIL.
If you watch any of the recent videos posted showing Kobe’s interaction with his kids and others you will see what was important to him, it wasn’t basketball, it was relationships. Not only are we to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, but we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. That includes those closest to us: our family, our friends, and our loved ones. Life is a vapor and we are not promised tomorrow. But when we cling to the things that matter, our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and our families, God’s grace can cover our sins and his Spirit can point us to praise and honor Him who gives us life. Take hold of that promise, hold tight to the ones you love, and spread the good news of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.
Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain
a heart of wisdom.”