If I don’t post this now, I will forever hold my peace, and that is a burden too heavy to bear, so I’m posting. Tonight, I watched as the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors to become the NBA Champions, and in a strange turn of events, I found myself cheering on LeBron and his band of merry, desperate-for-a-title men. Yet in the midst of it all, I never had the presence of mind to stop and think about what was really going on in my attitude towards people I’ve never even met.
We are all cavaliers, and we are all warriors. To say that this NBA Finals wasn’t a battle both literally and nominally would be an oversight of the tremendous effort put forth by both teams. As Christians, our war is often with ourselves and the sin that we shelter; James 1:19-20 (ESV) says: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Only after I composed myself did I realize and repent for being entirely un-Christian in my treatment of these public figures. I was stirred too deeply when Kyrie Irving hit the dagger three, and I was too blinded to show compassion to Draymond Green, whom I’ve gone so far as to say I hated.
It reminded me of a message I heard in college (wow, I can refer to college in the past tense) about how sporting events stir us so deeply, and yet, the narratives weaved into these events pale in comparison to the passion of Christ for the lost. I began to realize that I was living out the negative example provided in that sermon, and so, I’m grateful that God taught me a lesson through these NBA Finals; we are all part of one battle, and we shouldn’t glory in the sufferings of others nor should we boast of our own triumphs. To continue drawing parallels to basketball, we should view life with a love of the game and all of its intricacies and complexities instead of just choosing a side to support regardless of rhyme or reason. It’s only human nature to pick a side, but what can we really do at the end of the day besides propagate unnecessary ill will towards others in taking such stubborn positions? The whole Ayesha Curry situation, for example, is rather unfortunate; taking a side on it is subject to radical volatility, as people are moved to condemn critics as sexist because they’re trying to silence a female opinion while people who agree with her are seen as people biased for their own wellbeing. We’ve steadily forgotten about the Christian decency that comes from the Gospel; the fruits of the spirit wither away in the heat of our momentary passions for “the love of the game” when we lose sight of the love of the Lord.
These Cavaliers and these Warriors are all of equally noble standing and fought an equally difficult fight; perhaps it’s weak to yield to gracious professionalism and pay respects to the performance they’ve put on for all of us around the world, but I think it’s worth taking a moment thinking about LeBron and how he’s a father with three kids (the memes are endless), Draymond and his mother, JR Smith and his family, and Steph Curry and his wife and children as just people put in a place where impossibly high standards are expected to be met on a regular basis. At the end of the day, they’re just doing their job, and what a job they’ve done – we love them for what they do. It’s easy to criticize referees, belabor complaints about rigging, and mock the maturity of the players on the court. It’s much harder to sit back and appreciate that it’s a beautiful drama we have the privilege of watching – nothing more and nothing less. Let’s not let seven games of the highest level of basketball obfuscate our vision of who Christ is and what He expects of us in all circumstances.
It’s been a great NBA Finals; thank you, Cleveland and Golden State, for bearing with us. Cheers to next year’s NBA season – go Spurs.