2017 NBA Playoffs: It Just So Happened

It’s all about the stories, isn’t it?  The stories of the NBA Playoffs are not just about the X’s & O’s.  And while I keep a close coaching eye on the game plans, strategies, and adjustments, I am just as drawn to the personal stories of the players and coaches on display in the playoffs. It’s all about their stories and when you consider how some of these guys made it to where they are, their stories are often inspirational and fascinating – but then again, when you look closely, each of us has our own intriguing and often inspirational story.  We just have to uncover them.

BASKETBALL – Making His Mark

It just so happened that a little boy was born into a family in Sudan, a nation ravaged by civil wars. Continue reading

Losing the Low Post Tradition

Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

As we shift focus to the NBA playoffs, I’ve been catching up with my hometown Milwaukee Bucks and have witnessed a transformation that most of us in the basketball world have noticed happening for quite some time – the vanishing low post (We took a closer look in 2013 with Christmas & Post-Ups). Gone are the days of Milwaukee’s Lew Alcindor hitting sky hooks and drop-stepping from the block, but we have welcomed in two other seven-footers in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greg Monroe wheeling and dealing from the elbow.  They’re still posting up with their back to the basket, but they provide evidence of how the game of my youth has changed and it reminds me of the struggles going on within the church of today. Continue reading

SOAR Losers

AP Photo/LM Otero

As we considered the officiating from last week’s NCAA Men’s Championship game, Gonzaga’s Mark Few fielded questions from the media with dignity and humility (see last week article Inconsistent Officiating). Fortunately, most high-profile coaches and players handle the spotlight well, but I’m sure most of us have witnessed our share of sore losers, whether it’s coaches, players, parents, or fans.  In a culture that places the highest priority on winning and with a public hungry to sensationalize any outrageous behavior, too often we look to find people when they are most vulnerable.  We’re drawn to the failures of others, many times just to feel better about ourselves.  In addition to Mark Few, we were reminded this week by Connecticut women’s coach Geno Auriemma and NBA coach Monty Williams that there is a better way to handle losing.

BASKETBALL – SOAR

If you watched the ladies from Mississippi State end the amazing 111 game winning streak of the Connecticut Huskies in the NCAA Women’s Final Four, you may have seen something odd.  As Morgan William hit the buzzer-beating decisive shot, Geno Auriemma reacted with one of the biggest grins ever recorded on a losing coach.  While some might expect it was a cynical response, Auriemma actually had some incredible perspective about losing:

It has often been said that you can learn more from a loss than you can from a win.  I believe there is plenty to learn from both, but we tend to neglect the good that can come from losing.  You can either be sore by playing the “blame, complain, and explain” game or you can SOAR. Auriemma helps point the way for how a team, and each of us, can better handle a loss, which can be summarized in this way:

– Stick together.  Losses can divide a team or they can unite a team.  Losing reminds us that everyone has to be on board.

– Own it.  Not everything is under our control, but by controlling what we can control and taking responsibility for mistakes, we can grow stronger.

A – Appreciate it.  Winning is never easy and losing helps us to understand better what it takes to win.  Through losing we gain perspective on winning.

R – Resolve to use it.  Losses are only hurtful when we fail to learn and grow from them. Winners take a closer look at how they can use a loss to stretch further and choose a determined and more intelligent path to pursue a win.

LIFE – Life is Hard

Sports Illustrated reminded us this week through its feature article Monty Williams Stares Down Tragedy about the tragic death last year of Williams’ wife, Ingrid.  Williams, the former head coach of the Pelicans and also a former All-American at Notre Dame who played professionally despite a pre-existing heart condition, suffered the traumatic loss last year during his first season as Billy Donovan’s associate head coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder.  When Ingrid died from injuries suffered in a car accident, Williams and their five children were left without a beloved wife and mother.

Williams inspired all of us with a truly remarkable remembrance of his wife.  It’s worth watching:

Life is hard, with plenty of losses.  None of is exempt from trials, in basketball or in our lives.  Williams continues to display a true passion for following Jesus no matter what this life may throw at him and just showed us beautifully how we can approach the losses we experience.  If you look hard enough, you can find ways to soar rather than to be sore.

FAITH – God Will Work This Out

Williams eloquently stated that God will work things out and those of us who follow Jesus treasure the words of Paul:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28)

But all of us lose.  Life is hard. Things happen.  We not only make mistakes, we choose to make mistakes in our words and actions.  We’re selfish. We neglect others and we repeatedly put ourselves first.  We ignore our God and we miserably attempt to justify our actions.  We all do it – all of us. Not one of us is undefeated and without loss.  So, how does God, our Creator and our judge, work everything out?

That’s what this weekend is all about.  God suffered the greatest loss of all by offering up His only Son to take on all of our mistakes, our faults, our sin and nailing them to a Roman cross.  And Jesus took the loss for us.  Consider that.  God gave up His only Son to pay the ultimate price for our sin.  And after we appreciate what that loss means, we can turn to what happens next.  Jesus conquers death and asks us to soar with him:

 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37)

The significance of Easter is that not only did Jesus pay the price for our losses and failures, but He teaches us and invites us to soar above the miserable losses of this life. May God bless you as you consider the price He paid and as you celebrate the truth that God loves you and through the victory claimed through Jesus’s resurrection, you can soar with Him to heaven!