After the first few days of practice, our players have been straddling the fine line between learning our philosophy and proving they belong on the team or warrant getting playing time. Throw a bunch of new players together, watch them play and watch them work and you quickly see what matters most to them as players. These days, many players have been taught or they mimic a style of play that is self-centered with a “me-first “attitude. In our first practices, we’ve preached about playing unselfishly and working to help your teammates, but it can be hard for players to put aside the feeling that they need to impress by scoring. That’s one of the things I like about Jeremy Lin of the Houston Rockets. He plays with an unselfish spirit and in basketball today, that’s a rare thing!
FAITH – God blesses those with a different spirit.
When the people of Israel followed Moses out of Egypt, God had promised to provide for them a land of their own. Along the way, He protected and provided for them as they trekked through the wilderness. Upon reaching their destination, Moses sent out twelve spies to scope out the land and the people who lived there. Even though God had promised it to them and even though God had taken care of everything they needed along the way, the people wanted proof that the land was as advertised. When the spies returned they confirmed the land was everything they could hope for, but the people who lived there were giant warriors and would never be defeated or chased out. Two of those spies, however-Caleb and Joshua, had a different view:
Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. (Numbers 13:30-32)
Caleb and Joshua played with a different spirit. The land was good and the land was promised to them by God, the one who had delivered them out of Egypt. It was theirs for the taking because God had provided it. While everyone else was fretting and complaining, Caleb and Joshua were leaning on their faith. Aren’t we all like that the Israelites at times? God’s word is filled with promises, yet we allow the influence of others to get in the way. Instead of living differently, we conform to the crowd’s way of thinking.
The story doesn’t end there (Numbers 14). God was disappointed with the crowd and the consequence was that none of them would be allowed to enter the Promised Land, resulting in 40 years of wandering in the wilderness until the doubters died off – except, for Caleb and Joshua:
But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. (Numbers 14:24)
So, even when everyone else around you has a different view, living differently and having a different spirit ultimately pays off in the end. It seems that Jeremy Lin has that different kind of spirit, too.
LIFE – Living with a different spirit.
Jeremy Lin is different. He’s an Asian American playing in the NBA and he’s an Ivy-educated intellectual who has a Christian Worldview. Those things right there make him different from the norm. In fact his road to the NBA was different from most and helped shape him as he deals with the notoriety of being such a popular world-wide figure. I’m anxiously waiting for an opportunity to see the recently released film about his adventures:
And if you’re not familiar with the story check out Greg Dalrymple’s book, Linsanity or Fred Barnes’ article Unselfish Basketball in the Weekly Standard to learn more about what makes Lin different. We can also learn, as we watch him over the next few years, that living with a different kind of spirit will not be popular. As Caleb and Joshua were ridiculed for their beliefs, Lin will continue to be a target for living and playing with a different spirit.
BASKETBALL – Play with a different spirit.
Lin has made a name for himself by living and playing unselfishly. To learn more about how he blends basketball with his life and faith, check out his website at jlin7.com. If you just focus on the court, though, you’ll also see that Lin plays in a way that makes his teammates better. He makes the right pass, but still takes the right shots created for him by his teammates. He doesn’t hold back using his ability to score if that’s what’s best for the team. In the same way, on defense he overcomes average athletic ability by being willing to help, early to help, and courageously helping his teammates.
So, as I’m learning more about our players this year, I’m looking for those who play with a different spirit. I’m looking for those players who make their teammates better and unselfishly involve others. I’m looking for players who tune out the opinions of the crowd, who don’t have to make the spectacular, highlight plays and focus on making the right plays for the team. Those players have a different spirit!
Let me hear what you think – what makes a player UNSELFISH?