“Someday, someone will tell each of you, you can’t play anymore, and for some of you, that day is today.”
The way my father articulated the tale of the last stages of his collegiate career churned chaos and peace in an oxymoronic version of an irregular case of butterflies. Life is more than sports, but for athletes, it can be all they know.
The projected No. 1-overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Zion Williamson, has received copious amounts of professional opinions regarding how he should pursue the remainder of his rookie campaign. The bulk of the remarks echo the same general consensus—Williamson should sit the remaining months to protect his health and draft status. The logic surrounding this train of thought is fair and warranted, but sometimes the right thing to do is not always the smart thing.
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who is known for his witty post-game remarks, said in an interview: “No one is bigger than the team.”
Williamson is one of 14 men on the Duke basketball roster. Even though they showcase some of the nation’s most elite talent, very few within their ranks will see action at the professional level. Most will hear the bone-chilling phrase, “you cannot play anymore.” Without Williamson, Duke has struggled, winning only three of its last five games. If this pattern continues, the team’s time spent during March Madness will be short lived.
The one-and-done rule dampens the bond between highly-touted freshman classes and their corresponding juniors and seniors, but their connection is still powerful. Two of the 14 mentioned Duke players are graduating at the end of the semester, meaning their life in the game of basketball is ticking.
I am not saying Williamson owes anyone anything. He does not. It is his own hard work that has put him on this stage, but if he is healthy, the men who fought through the same workouts, went on the same road trips and encouraged him throughout the season even when they weren’t playing need him on the floor.
Major League Baseball legend Joe DiMaggio fully implemented living and playing every game like it was his last, and frequently would quote, “There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first time, so I owe him my best.”
It is true. Williamson is an icon. Prior to attending Duke, he was a viral sensation, showing off his superhuman athleticism through jaw-dropping windmills and aggressive rejections. It is only natural for up-and-comers to want to be like him.
I want to reiterate Williamson does not owe anyone anything. No spectator has put in the hours he has, but to the young Duke fan sitting in the stands, idolizing him, watching his every move, mirroring his style and copying his game—they deserve to see him in action.
In Scripture, 1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace and various forms.”
It is overwhelmingly easy to want to be different than what you are. At times, it can be embedded in the human psyche.
It is the duty of Christian faith to be stewards of the abundant grace of God. We should be encouraged to think rightly and to love completely by exercising the gifts God has provided.
Sometimes that is confusing. Sometimes that is difficult. But, we bring glory to God when we speak His words and serve in the strength He has provided us. Williamson is blessed with the avenue to bring people to the Lord through the game of basketball just as we have been blessed in our own way. It is an evangelistic responsibility to seize every opportunity given pertaining to our own strengths.
The moral obligation Williamson has to his teammates, idolizers and himself reinforces the necessity for him to return to the court.