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Perhaps the Greatest Redemption Story In NBA History is Unfolding!?

by Dr Joseph Bucci, Guest Contributor

July 7th 2023



When I look at other people, what do I see? With what framework or lenses do I view others? I ask this of myself, because it is too easy to generalize about how others view situations.


Our cultural discourse is volatile and sometimes hostile in how it views the actions of people who are seen violating social norms. We don't often take the time to understand how or why someone is acting the way they do. We certainly do not often take the time to see how things might turn out for the good.


Let us take a professional athlete for example: are they expected to be a great person and role model simply because they can throw a football or hit a baseball or shoot a basket? A professional sports league may want a player who is well known and respected to be “the face” as it were of the league (Simmons, 2023). But this creates even more pressure on an individual. What happens when that person acts foolishly? Then what do we see?


Ja Morant is a gifted basketball player who by some standards could be perceived to be the face of the National Basketball Association (Ganglani, 2022) as its elderly stars near their later years (Cato, Weiss, and Vorkunov, 2023).


According to the NY Post, the two-time NBA all-star was seen in social media brandishing a toy gun after two previous incidents where he filmed himself with actual handguns, once in March and another just a few days earlier in May (Staszewski, 2023). While in this latest incident the gun was a toy gun, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called the incident “alarming.” Silver said it was concerning for the possibility of other young people following the superstar’s example (Martin, 2023). For his actions, Mr. Morant received a 25-game suspension, and expressed his remorse in a statement released to the press (Martin, 2023)


Do we expect that these individuals as young as they are, growing up in the spotlight, will do everything correctly? One veteran player who experienced growing up in the public eye as a basketball superstar shared his experience, and how difficult it was for him with the challenges of growing up in the spotlight (Lynn, 2023a). He was able to express his empathy for Ja Morant because he had experienced the same growing pains.


But one former player had a different viewpoint. While he did see immaturity in Ja’s actions; and the hard work ahead of fixing his public image, this former player saw an opportunity for redemption (Lynn, 2023b). Former player and NBA analyst Jay Williams was quoted as saying, “He (Morant) has a chance to be one of the greatest redemption stories in basketball” (Lynn, 2023b). Jay Williams sees the opportunity, not the past; nor does he label the player because of his actions. Jay Williams wants Ja Morant to win, in character as well as in his career (Lynn, 2023b).


So I asked myself this question, and perhaps you might join with me in this: When I look at the behavior of others, do I view their actions with contempt, or do I see opportunity for change? Does my heart move towards punishment, or do I consider their actions with a view towards redemption?


Jesus said it’s all in how we view things. He said that the eye is the lamp of the body (Matthew 6:22). He meant that the eyes are the entrance to our hearts (Got Questions, 2023). “Good” eyes perceive well; they see the good and the righteous, the difference between the light and the darkness. Lord, help me to be fitted with the same eyes as Jay Williams, to be able to see those opportunities for redemption in everyone with whom I come in contact.



(Joseph J. Bucci has served as a Pastor, Author, HR Director, Director of Training, Professor and Consultant. Dr. Bucci has over 20 years of experience in various Human Resource Management roles, and 18 years in Higher Education. He has also been an Ordained Minister for over 30 years. Dr. Bucci teaches management and leadership courses at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA, where he and his wife Debi reside. His new book, Redemption Inc. was published in 2022. Contact Dr. Bucci at joe@josephjbucci.com.)


Sources:

1. Cato, T.; Weiss, J.; & Vorkunov, M. (2023, June 20). Who is the next face of the NBA? Giannis? Wembanyama? Luka? The Athletic [Web Blog]. Retrieved from https://theathletic.com/4614779/2023/06/20/nba-giannis-wembanyama-luka-next-face/.

2. Ganglani, N. (2022, December 12). "Definitely, Ja Morant is the future face of the league” - why Stephen A. Smith believes Ja Morant is the new face of the NBA. Basketball Network [Web Blog]. Retrieved from https://www.basketballnetwork.net/latest-news/why-stephen-a-smith-believes-ja-morant-is-the-new-face-of-the-nba.

3. Got Questions (2023). What did Jesus mean when He said, “the eye is the lamp of the body” (Matthew 6:22)? Retrieved from https://www.gotquestions.org/eye-lamp-body.html.

4. Lynn, J. (2023, June 18). Chris Paul Gets Honest About Ja Morant. Sports Illustrated: Fan Nation [Web Blog]. Retrieved from https://www.si.com/nba/grizzlies/news/chris-paul-gets-honest-about-ja-morant.

5. Lynn, J. (2023, June 15). Former NBA Player Shares Powerful Message for Ja Morant. Sports Illustrated: Fan Nation [Web Blog]. Retrieved from https://www.si.com/nba/grizzlies/news/former-nba-player-shares-powerful-message-for-ja-morant.

6. Martin, C. (2023, June 17). Video appears to show NBA star Ja Morant filming himself with toy gun after second weapons-related incident. Fox News. Retrieved from https://www.foxnews.com/sports/video-shows-embattled-nba-star-ja-morant-filming-himself-with-toy-gun-after-second-weapons-related-incident.

7. Simmons, M. (2023, February 3). Patrick Mahomes: It’s not about being the face of the league, it’s doing what you can to win. Pro Football Talk [Web Blog]. Retrieved from https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2023/02/03/patrick-mahomes-its-not-about-being-the-face-of-the-league-its-doing-what-you-can-to-win/.

8. Staszewski, J. (2023, June 17). Ja Morant filmed himself with toy gun day after second firearm incident. NY Post. Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2023/06/17/ja-morant-filmed-with-toy-gun-day-after-second-firearm-incident/.



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