It’s got to be strange to see and hear your name everywhere.
Stranger still to have been a celebrated superstar one season and the so called “biggest villain in college basketball” the next. For better or worse, your successes and failures have catapulted you into the limelight with all its accolades and cruelty.
That’s a big load for a 20-something to carry at a time in life when there is still so very much to learn.
I wondered if that was what I witnessed as you raged on the bench during the Elon game—a visceral response to the load. I’ve experienced a few of those personally—in the locker room, screaming expletives, throwing gear and pounding the wall. They were different circumstances from yours—a different source of “heartburn” perhaps—but just as violent.
I remember feeling out of control in the face of a broken world that was out of my control. I sat one time with one of my dearest friends, my face in my hands, weeping uncontrollably because life just seemed like too much for me.
No amount of intensity, competitiveness, fearlessness or drive were able to compel the world to do my bidding. So I snapped in small ways and big. Angry actions akin to tripping and tantrums.
As the life I longed for was slipping away, I found a refuge in my faith that I flat out missed throughout my first several years following Christ. I had been looking to God primarily to change my circumstances (athletic success, better grades, money to pay the bills), while missing countless opportunities for Him to change me.
Sure, I cleaned up some of my external behavior, but there were matters of the heart I couldn’t address on my own—humility, contentment, real joy and authentic love.
I noticed you Tweet a lotta Bible! There definitely isn’t a better place to turn for truth!
Having said that, I’ve been around sports for most of my life as a player or a coach, and I’ve found that the Word is most often turned to for inspiration and less often for lasting transformation.
It seems, however, that the primary purpose of the Bible is bigger than mere motivation. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
In other words, it’s meant to change us!
I heard you acknowledge your need for change. You said you were ready to get your reputation back at the beginning of this season. And yet again, you resorted to foul play when the game got away from you.
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Until you address the heart of the matter in you with grace and truth, change will continue to escape you, and the consequences will only grow with time.
One of the best places to start is with your story. I don’t know your family or the experiences of your life, but I know that you (like all of us) formed a strategy for coping with a sin-plagued world, and that strategy is to some degree rooted in self-reliance, self-protection, and self-promotion.
Here’s some good news. If you have entrusted your life to Christ—by grace, through faith—then He is completing a good work in you (Philippians 1:6) which will gradually turn your dependence away from yourself and anchor it in God’s word, God’s Spirit and God’s people (see Ephesians 2:8-10).
With regards to anger, each one of us has to come to terms with our own limitations. I’m not talking about complacency or apathy, but rather passionate contentment fueled by gratitude.
Entitlement is currently among our greatest cultural ills, and it incites violations of every variety every day. The more you and I believe we deserve better than everyone else around us, the more we will demand it in the things that we say and do.
Contrary to that, because we have been given everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-8), we’re told, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3–4).
As difficult as it may be to remember in the heat of battle, you can be sure of this: losing the ball, losing a point, losing a game, even losing a championship will never be as costly as losing your reputation. When your competitive days are over, mere accomplishments won’t mean nearly as much to you as will the way in which you lived on and off the court.
Practically speaking, you need a gameplan to face those moments which have proven to be vulnerabilities for you. It’s no different than the preparation and execution of actions and reactions to what you expect from your opponents on the court. Here’s four steps to consider:
Saturate your mind with Scripture that specifically addresses your struggle (anger, lust, envy, pride, etc.).
Prepare yourself in prayer on a daily basis and when going into situations which will likely test you. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom, discernment, strength and awareness of the way of escape He promises to provide (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Create a planned response to familiar temptation, and follow it by faith.
Invite trusted friends and mentors to pray for you and support you with loving accountability.
Without doubt, by now you can see with great clarity how just a few momentary lapses in judgment tarnish what would otherwise be an admirable career. I hope this letter will prompt you to look inside those moments through the lens of the very gospel you so frequently promote, and invite the peace of Christ to guard your heart and mind in Him (Philippians 4:6-7).
And I trust that the rest of this season will be the best ever for you in the ways that matter most.