Basketball, Faith, Life
Basketball has been a great lifestyle journey for my family and me. It has been more than just a game.
I’ve found that basketball has a deep, hidden linkage to the Christian faith—it’s a connection that I’m discovering and beginning to reveal. There is a much deeper world of symbolism and meaning that helps me understand my purpose and passion for basketball. I give thanks and appreciation Dr. Brian Bolt, Dr. Chad Carlson, and a mentor, Dr. Dennis Feltwell, for allowing me to share about my love for basketball.
I love all sports, but basketball has been my favorite since I was a young kid. Dr. James Naismith, basketball’s founder, created the game in order for his students to have fun, but he also created it as a tool for pedagogy about good living and, derivatively, Christianity. My book, Motivating Illustrations of Faith in Basketball, imagines that Dr. Naismith wanted the game’s adherents to notice and reflect on the potentially high level of spiritual intelligence that we can glean from the game if we look a little closer at its core features (I call them symbols) and relate them to the Bible.
I shared my work with the Christian Society of Kinesiology Leisure and Sports Studies. I discussed my work with researchers and archivists at Kansas University, where I was able to review primary source documents. This was especially relevant because I also saw documents within the John McLendon archives (he was a Naismith protégé and was the first Black coach of a predominantly white institution in the United States) that discussed sports and psychology. I have a sports psychology background that underscores my basketball research, including that regarding the relationship between confidence and faith.
My next project on basketball and Naismith is analyzing the quote from his book in the early 1900s about the importance of officials and coaches. In paraphrasing, Dr. Naismith stated that the future of basketball rests in the hands of the officials, but the most important responsibility rests with the coaches. The goal here is not just philosophical research. I hope to formulate an algorithm that scientifically indicates why these two positions are important. In my perspective, officials are important because they are clothed in authority (1 Peter 2:25) and coaches are crucial because they teach and preach the game at the same time (Exodus 19:6). This gives me the impression that, while officials and coaches clearly have the ability to teach and enforce rules of the game, they also have the potential and power to be bridges toward spiritual salvation for athletes, other coaches, officials, athletic directors, and anyone else in the game. For instance, the game of basketball has shown economic potential for student athletes and coaches in college and for coaches, officials and players professionally. This is a form of salvation in the natural because it’s an opportunity to better one’s life and become better towards society economically. So, if it is in the natural, so it can be in the spirit. In theory, I believe that basketball can help better a life in the natural. I believe basketball can do the same thing in faith.
The next step is to gather some survey data from coaches, players and officials. This will take some time—research always does—but I’m up for it because the results will be meaningful to me both professionally and personally. I want to see if this theory can be accepted faithfully and scholarly. This work gives me a sense of purpose because I always wanted to make my mark in basketball. Since my playing days are over, this platform gives life towards that opportunity and I’m really looking forward in seeing where it takes me. And I hope to include my family on this journey, because they have played a part in helping me find a passion for basketball.
But this is bigger than just basketball. We have to remember that Naismith created basketball using elements of six other sport—rugby, lacrosse, soccer, baseball, football, and hockey. This means that my thesis may have potential faith implications beyond basketball. The principles of basketball’s faith origins may be unique, but I think Naismith saw salvation opportunities in many different sports.
Dr. Naismith wanted the game’s adherents to notice and reflect on the potentially high level of spiritual intelligence that we can glean from the game if we look a little closer at its core features
— MICHEAL JONES
Coach Micheal Jones at his best, around the game of basketball coaching hoops…and life.
Listen to the companion podcast.