Who’s Soft Now?

  Sometimes, nice guys DO finish first. A few days ago the National Basketball Association held its final playoff game--and the outcome proved that godly character is no impediment to competitive spirit. Those who watched the game witnessed a striking contrast in the character of the stars. The New York Knicks were led by Latrell Sprewell, who, this time last year, was serving a suspension for attempting to strangle his coach. On the other side of the court we had the San Antonio Spurs' leader, David Robinson, and point guard Avery Johnson. Both men are committed Christians, but because of their faith, some critics have long considered them inferior to non-Christian players. Now consider: Robinson has been named one of the fifty greatest players of all time. He's won both an NBA scoring title and Most Valuable Player award. Yet, unbelievably, some critics still viewed Robinson a liability to his team. Why? Because in their view, devout Christians are "too soft" to be winners. As Robinson tells it, "I've had to listen to a lot of people say... that I was soft, that I would never win a championship because I didn't want it badly enough." Well, a few days ago that "softie" proved the critics wrong: In the final game of the series (in which the Spurs won four out of five games) Robinson led his team to victory over New York, 78-77, and helped them claim their first NBA title. The win was gratifying, Robinson says, because it's "evidence that having a strong religious faith doesn't mean that you can't be a tough competitor." Not only did Robinson put those "softie" criticisms to rest, he also showed how one player's faith can benefit the whole team. Earlier this year, Robinson was asked to play a supporting role to the Spurs' young star, Tim Duncan. As their coach Greg Popovich told Sports Illustrated, there are very few superstars who would willingly take a subordinate role for the good of the team. Even fewer would celebrate when that subordinate carried off the Most Valuable Player Award, as Duncan did. Where does Robinson get the strength and humility to do it? As he told Sports Illustrated, "I can't overstate how important my faith has been to me as an athlete and as a person. It's helped me deal with so many things, including matters of ego and pride." In explaining how he could overcome jealousy and enjoy watching Duncan receive an award he himself might have won, Robinson cited the story of David and Saul in I Samuel. David had won a major victory for Saul, but as Robinson says, "Saul couldn't enjoy the victory because he was thinking about David's getting more credit than he was." Well, in his own life, Robinson said, "God has given me the ability to just enjoy the victory." Over the last few decades, it's become a common stereotype that religion is for women and children-- that men who embrace faith are soft--lacking the "macho stuff." Well, David Robinson has slam dunked that theory once and for all. If you're looking for a great role model for your sons and grandsons, you need look no further than this remarkable NBA champion. He's proof that godly character and manliness are not mutually exclusive.


Chuck Colson


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