Thursday, 20 June 2013


I began playing club basketball when I was five or six years old. But even before that I had been teaching myself on a small plastic hoop. I grew up with images of Michael Jordan winning championships, back when the NBA was still on free to air TV. As I grew up, basketball became my identity. But in Year 12, after playing non-stop for seven years, I quit competitive basketball to focus on study.

My best Michael Jordan imitation.
Well, after a six year hiatus I finally returned to the basketball arena last night. Sitting in the stands, counting down the minutes til tip off  I felt the nerves set in and the question haunted me: what if I can't play like I used to be able to? Adrenaline pumped through my system as I was filled with anxious excitement.

Finally I was able to walk on to the court to warm up with my team. As I jogged back and forth across the court I tried to calm myself and center my thoughts on what I needed to do: score baskets and defend. I watched the other team warm up as I stretched out on the floor, identifying which of my opponents was a scoring threat. Then I put up a few practice shots, trying to shake the rust off my shooting arm.

Warm ups finished. We marched out on to the court and met the other team, exchanging cold pleasantries and back slaps. As we lined up around the halfway circle for the jump ball I looked around the court. I know  the dimensions weren't any different to any other court, but it felt like the sidelines stretched out for miles. The cold air felt thin and my lungs were already working hard. The challenge ahead of me seemed immense.

Throughout the game my body felt tight, I huffed and puffed from basket to basket, I watched my opponents dribble past me time and again and shots that I was used to hitting were clanging off the back of the rim. I was playing with all the grace and style of a hippo doing ballet. I was feeling the effects of six years away.

With less than a minute on the clock the score was even at 42-42. The other team had the ball and were trying to run the clock down and score in the last seconds. One of the opponent players tried to dribble past me and instincts which had been hard driven into me after 17 years of playing kicked in: my arm shot out, my hand hit the ball out of his hands, suddenly I had the ball and open space in front of me all the way to the hoop. I was off! My legs pumped beneath me and I sucked and gasped for air to fuel my final push. I was miles ahead of the chasing defenders and I knew I was going to score with ease and I could already taste victory. I slowed as I approached the hoop, launching myself up, extending my arm out and flicking my hand, performing the simplest shot in basketball: a layup. I had practiced shooting layups since I was five, there was no way it could miss............................

The final score was 42-42. I shouldn't have missed that layup. The moment has replayed in my head every second since I saw it ricochet off the backboard and into an opponent's hands. This was the moment every kid dreams about: to win the ballgame and to be the hero. I let that moment slip straight through my hands. Instead of victory all I can taste is disappointment.

I learnt a long time ago that things don't always go as we plan. I was meant to be an NBA superstar like my hero Michael Jordan, instead I'm a rusty, clumsy player in the lowest division of a social league. When I stopped playing basketball in Year 12, I had to admit to myself finally that playing professionally wasn't going to happen for me and that was a very sad realisation to come to. But had I not realised that and moved on, I wouldn't have discovered God's calling to work in youth ministry the last five years and a calling to now work in vocations ministry. Yeah disappointments suck, but without them we wouldn't discover the truth. And what is that truth? The truth is that a missed layup or a bad grade or a speeding ticket or whatever disappointments we might experience aren't the end of the world because there is a God who is bigger than all of that. If I had made that layup I would've been the hero, but that miss reminds me that God calls me to greater things than putting a ball through a hoop.

No comments:

Post a Comment