As the Miami Heat waltzed through the playoffs to earn a chance at a rare “Three-peat,” my focus has been on the San Antonio Spurs as they defy the odds and get their re-match with the King and his Court. What I’ve found fascinating is that the connection between the unselfish, team-oriented style of the Spurs and the expectations of the Christian life generates so much interest in those who visit this site. One of the most read 3PW articles of the year was Should Christian Players Come Out of the Closet? in which we discussed the idea of players proclaiming their faith in public and the number one search request that leads people to 3PW has been “Is Tim Duncan a Christian?” While I still don’t have an answer to that question, as much as I would like to know, it’s not my focus. However, there are a few things we can learn about life and faith from the way the Spurs have played all year!
BASKETBALL – A Beautiful thing.
What makes the Spurs different? This video sums it up:
Many of us will marvel at the dominating presence of LeBron James, who quite possibly will be able to drive his Heat to another win over the Spurs, but for me, I’ll be watching and cheering for San Antonio. They exemplify everything I want the teams I coach to master. Their “I have a good shot, but you have a better shot” mentality is the ultimate in unselfish play. It’s what I hope to teach every player with whom I get to work. You get a quick glimpse of Gregg Popovich’s philosophy when you see those “mic’ed up” moments in the huddle. In one recent game, Pop implored his team by saying “Don’t be a ball stopper! We don’t need ball stoppers out there!” Our players will tell you how much I love that term!
That unselfish style of play has been the trademark of the Spurs for quite some time and has been described in Jan Hubbard’s The History of the San Antonio Spurs. In fact, it’s pre-Tim Duncan and had its roots in the David Robinson era, when the “Admiral” helped build the foundation with his military background and all around fundamental style, and also with his outspoken Christian faith. Duncan, a very similar player, has taken San Antonio to even greater heights. Both have used an unselfish, positive approach to leading their teammates to the top of the league and creating an atmosphere in which players help their teammates get better. Obviously, the architect of that style is Popovich, whose experience in the military has helped him mold his teams into the epitome of unselfishness.
LIFE – What can you do?
Playing for your teammates, making each other better, and sharing the glory are trademarks that we can take from the Spurs and use on a daily basis. It doesn’t matter what line of work you’re in, you can have an impact on those you work with by helping them achieve and striving to help others get better. As I have dealt with difficult work situations or have coached difficult players, reaching out and taking unselfish steps has led to dramatic improvements. It’s not always noticed and it doesn’t always bear fruit immediately, but I know when I change my focus and think less about what I need or what I want, I’ve had greater impact on whatever situation I am in. As I work with students and recent college grads, that perspective is hard to find. But like David Robinson and Tim Duncan, young workers who inspire their colleagues to put others first will rise to the top!
FAITH – They’ll know we are Christians . . .
If you grew up in the church, you probably remember the praise song of the 70’s, “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love.” It’s been covered by the likes of Jars of Clay and Rebecca St. James and while it can drive you silly as it sticks in your head, it’s a basic Christian principle. As the Spurs play, we’ll see their unselfish attitude and love for their teammates on display. It’s inspiring – so inspiring, that many fans watching will assume there must be something Christian in the background. Even Scripture refers to it:
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)
Think about how a cowboy uses a spur to encourage his horse to giddy-up and go. That’s exactly what the Christian life should be. It’s not about being rigid and judgmental. It’s not about doing church better or racking up heaven points. It’s about recognizing the unselfish love of God and sharing it with those around us. It’s showing that love unconditionally and spurring others to do the same. You may think I’m overstating it a bit, but when I see Tony Parker drive the lane, draw defenders, and kick the ball out to Danny Green for an open three or when I see Boris Diaw up-fake and then find a wide open Tiago Spliiter for a dunk, I see the Christian life. I don’t even need to know if they profess the Christian faith off the court. The example they set with their play should spur all of us toward love and good deeds!