My home community of Philadelphia is a blue-collar city full of resilient people who value family and loyalty. The sport of preference is basketball. However, this is not basketball played on hardwood floors and in air-conditioned gyms. It is basketball that originates and manifests itself on the blacktop in every climate that Mother Nature has in her arsenal.
I was fortunate to grow up in a decade-long era of Allen Iverson playing in the National Basketball Association for the Philadelphia 76ers. Iverson is adored in Philadelphia and is the 76ers’ most revered player of all time because he embodied what it means to be a Philadelphian: he was passionate, tough, emotional and fierc. He was a competitor and a resilient fighter. Simply put, you can’t be from the City of Brotherly Love and not have a passion for the game.
I’m thankful for the beautiful game of basketball the Lord made for his glory. What I enjoy most about being on the court is the freedom that comes with playing the sport. It’s a chance to express myself in the artistry and movement of the game. The fun part about it is that my Philadelphia competitor in me comes out, and it’s fierce to say the least.
As a player, there are goals I set for myself and also really big milestones. The milestones often feel as if they’re unattainable dreams because of how massive they seem. One of the milestones I set for myself was to play at the highest level of college basketball–National Collegiate Athletic Association, Division I.
The Lord blessed me with a talent for the game and ultimately showed me his glory in allowing me to play at the Division I level. I played for the University of Richmond Spiders my freshmen year and the Campbell University Fighting Camels for my sophomore and junior year. I am privileged to have those experiences and thankful that both programs gave me the chance to put on a uniform.
The Lord has revealed to me his faithfulness yet again by providing me the opportunity to spend my senior year playing for the Golden Eagles here at John Brown University. I am grateful to Coach Jason Beschta and Ty Beard for encouraging me to come and represent the University. Some of the greatest moments of my life thus far have been on the basketball floor and I am so thankful for it.
Since I’ve had a myriad of experiences playing this game across the country, I would like to discuss some of the differences in playing for a Christian university versus playing at secular schools.
To start, we have a unique atmosphere on the Golden Eagles basketball team. Our coaches are men of high character and expect nothing less from us. They want to raise up leaders who know Christ personally and who are leaders in all that we do. Basketball is more than a game here. I see the value in using it as a discipline to teach young men about life after the ball stops bouncing.
We also have devotionals before each game that either a coach, player or guest speaker shares with the team. We pray before practice and games and we pray for one another when we face hardships in life. Devotionals start with the coaches who seek to honor the Lord, their wives, family, coworkers, university and players. These coaches are leading us to recognize our need for the Lord, which is all the time, and also teaching us how to work diligently as we do it unto the Lord. I am growing in my faith through the many challenges and joys that happen throughout a season of basketball.
Playing Division I basketball was an incredible experience but a different one as well. I played against high-level basketball players, some of whom now play in the NBA. We had our own personal jet that flew us charter flights to all of our away games. The players received endless amounts of gear: basketball shoes, shorts, shirts and running shoes. We dined at the nicest restaurants on away trips and were treated like celebrities around campus. Basically, basketball was life.
The basketball at Division I schools has a lot of pressure on winning since so much of the money the university makes is accounted for by the athletics programs. My Philadelphia mantra and trash talking that I picked up from my earlier days of playing on the playground was accepted in these settings—in fact, it was often encouraged in order to help me win. The game was intense physically, mentally and emotionally.
I am thankful for the story that the Lord continues to write with my life through the places he takes me and opportunities he opens for me. My life started to make sense when I realized the Lord’s will is where my identity is found. Wherever he takes me next, I am going to share the wisdom he has given me in the experiences I’ve had through playing the game I love.
Luke Moyer is a senior majoring in communication. He can be reached at MoyerS@jbu.edu.