Eagle Devo: Play Smart!
There is an I.Q. associated with any activity or pursuit, whether it be business or sports. Some people are very smart; others not so much. But whoever we are, the good news is that we can grow that I.Q. (smarts), and basketball is no exception. It’s imperative that we play for Him and play hard, but we can both play for wisdom as the “Larry Bird”. The Boston Celtic’s Larry Bird is arguably one of the smartest players to ever play the game. At times it seemed as if he played with eyes in the back of his head. It was rare that Bird ever turned the ball over, but his tenacious defensive created many turnovers for his opponents. He stood 6’9”, but may have only had a 20-inch vertical leap. What he lacked in overall gifting, he made up for with passion and hard work. He outworked every opponent. Part of playing smart for Larry Bird was playing harder than anyone else on, and off, the court. Even when he made mistakes, he never quit trying. If there was a loose ball, Bird was diving on the floor. If there was a rebound to be had, he made every effort, and he crashed the boards hard. His smart play elevated the game of his entire team. He caused everyone around him to play smarter and better. Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, and Dennis Johnson were some of his favorite targets for assists. He understood his role as a team leader, but he distributed the ball with unprecedented basketball intelligence. The Celtics did not have a bunch of stars, but they played like stars because of Larry Bird. Each person knew their role and they played within that role. Playing within one’s role requires humility. In order for the Celtics to win, Dennis Johnson (point guard) had to distribute the ball, minimize turnovers, and play tough defense. For Johnson, this was smart basketball. This made his team smarter and win more games. Now, if truth be told, one of the biggest reasons for Johnson’s success was that he was a former Supersonic, but that’s beside the point #sonicsbacktoseattle. His role was not to score 30 points – that was Bird’s role. Robert Parish was a 7-footer who was in the game to be a big, defensive body in the middle, grab a dozen rebounds, and catch a few no-look passes from Bird. That was smart basketball for him and the team. We must always consider “smart” in the context of team.
What does “smart” look like for you and your role in the context of the overall team? What gifts and skills has God given you individually? This is where humility comes into play. The Bible helps us to live and play smart by helping each of us understand our role: “Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (Rom. 12:3). This is living life smart. Who helps us know our role? Coaches and parents. For example, what if we think we are a better basketball player than we actually are? What if we view ourselves as a long-range shooter, but our coach tells us that what the team needs is a mid-range shooter. Coaches are honest with their players to help them become the best and smartest individual players possible, but they are also responsible to help the team become the best it can be. Our challenge is to know how God has uniquely gifted us – for the team, for our family, and in life.God and play hard, and yet not do it very well b/c we don’t play smart. Proverbs describes employing both knowledge and wisdom. This certainly applies to basketball. Knowledge has to do with how much we know; wisdom is about the quality in which we know it (knowing what to do with what we know). For example, anyone can make a pass to a teammate, but wisdom knows when to make the pass and the right type of pass to make in any given situation. We will refer to this type of basketball