I'm a Christian, and I love basketball. And so, I love a good basketball story that involves good basketball players who are Christians.
In his 10th NBA season, Jrue Holiday has emerged as one of the NBA's best all-around players. Already considered the best defensive point guard in the league, Holiday is increasingly sporting an offensive game to match.
What a difference two years can make. More to the point, what a difference faith can make.
In 2016, when Jrue and his wife, Lauren, were expecting their first child, doctors found a benign tumor on the right side of Lauren's brain. Holiday, who after struggling with injuries was in the best basketball shape of his life, knew what he had to: He took an indefinite leave from his team, the New Orleans Pelicans, to care for his wife and soon-to-be-born daughter.
Though devastated about his wife's condition, Holiday said that "there is nothing in life my wife can't conquer with Jesus Christ in her corner."
Both mother and daughter, thanks be to God, turned out fine. And Jrue was named the best defensive point guard in the league the following season. He doesn't shy away from admitting how difficult Lauren's health crisis had been, but he also told Sports Spectrum that the crisis brought him closer to God.
Now, if that was all there was to the story, Christian athlete who puts God and his family first and still excels, it would be worth telling. But there's more.
You see, Jrue isn't the only basketball player in his family. He's not even the only Holiday currently in the NBA. This season, there are three Holiday brothers playing in the league.
Having two brothers play in the NBA isn't all that unusual. For instance, there's Stephen and Seth Curry and Marc and Pau Gasol.
But three? That's unusual. Besides the Holiday brothers, the only other families to put three in the league are Jon, Brent, and Drew Barry; Marshall, Miles and Mason Plumlee; and the four Jones brothers: Caldwell, Charles, Major and Wil.
Like Jrue, Justin Holiday, who plays for the Chicago Bulls, and Aaron Holiday, who plays for the Indiana Pacers, are open about their Christian faith.
Justin's Twitter feed is dominated by Bible verses. He has described playing in the NBA as a "platform" that enables him to "spread God's word." In a recent profile about Aaron, the Indianapolis Star specifically cited his faith and character among the reasons he'd be a good fit for the Pacers.
Obviously, and forgive the double negative, extraordinary young men like the Holiday brothers don't come from nowhere. They are the product of their upbringing. As the Star pointed out in its profile, "forget about [Aaron] having to face [Pacers coach] Nate McMillan or [team] president Kevin Pritchard." It's Mom and Dad whom Aaron and his brothers worry about disappointing.
As Toya Holiday says, "You have to work on the person you want to be When people look at you, what do you want them to see?"
Shawn Holiday provides the answer: "You want him to shine so if somebody comes to the game, even a little kid, you don't want him to take home that ugliness. You want him to take home the goodness. You carry yourself in that way." The "him," lest anyone miss it, is Jesus.
The story of the Holiday family reminds us that God is at work in the lives of ordinary, or in this case athletically extraordinary, families. And also, it reminds us that the most important things we pass to our kids aren't jump shots or our dribbling ability. It's faith that will get them through trying times, like it did Jrue and Lauren Holiday, a faith in the One who overcame the world.
From BreakPoint, Nov. 27, 2018; reprinted by permission of the Colson Center, www.breakpoint.org.