Ever since I was five-years-old, I have loved the game of basketball with a burning passion. When I felt the exhilarating rush of watching a basketball swish through the net for the first time, I knew I was hooked. And that burning passion has not subsided over the last 16 years and now also presents itself in my passion for writing
However, what makes basketball (and sports in general) so compelling isn’t merely their superficial aesthetic qualities. Of course, there is an understated beauty in a well-executed crossover or a fluid jump shot. But it’s more than that.
When you break it down to its basic essence, basketball is a reflection, a mirror in a certain sense. The trials and struggles that you face on a basketball court can often parallel the struggles that you deal with off the court—and that’s a reality that I know many basketball players even at younger ages understand. The ambition, insecurity, the fear of falling short and the desire to be great—these are as much a part of life as they are of basketball, especially at the professional level.
That is what makes it so compelling and memorable. We can find meaning in different areas of our lives that serve as a fulcrum for life itself, and basketball is one of those things (my ultimate meaning is found in Jesus Christ, but that is a different article for a different website).
And not only can we find that comfort and meaning in our own experiences, but we can find them in the experience of others—perhaps even that of your favorite team.
Now, I can imagine what you’re thinking right now. Nathan, are you on some type of medication. You’re even more in your feelings than usual. Drink too much eggnog? Still hate the Grizzlies?
Maybe it’s just that time of the year. But there is no better time than the end of the year to reflect, and that is what I am going to do
Without going into too much detail, 2018 was a very difficult year for me. If I felt like any character from any movie, I’d probably feel like 2018 was the Ivan Drago to my Rocky Balboa, repeatedly and mercilessly punching me in the face until I throw in the towel.
Life can almost at times feel like a swimming pool that you jump into without realizing how deep it is. Once you realize that you’re in a bad place, you start to struggle to get out. And the more you struggle, the worse your situation gets until you begin drowning. Desperately clutching and gasping for air.
You lose a friend to suicide, you lose another in a different circumstance, and you start to feel all of that weight beginning to pile up. Add that on top of the burdens I’ve had the opportunity to bear in ministry over the last year, and I’ve almost felt like I’ve been in my own version of the “sunken place” recently.
As everyone is already aware, the Memphis Grizzlies entered their own version of the sunken place in 2018, and it seemed like the miserable experience was never going to end. After all, for a fledgling small-market team whose front office has never been particularly lauded for its competence, the Grizzlies appeared to be closer to a KANGZ-esque decade-long struggle rather than a quick return to relevance.
However, just as life eventually does when you hit its dark stretches, things have gotten better.
Of course, everything is not perfect. The Grizzlies currently have a coach in J.B. Bickerstaff who has certainly played a role in returning the team to relevance yet also handicaps them from being everything that they could be because of his confounding lineup decisions. It has proved to be frustrating, demoralizing, and it may prevent them from making the playoffs this year.
But the Grizzlies’ current and recent struggles do not change the fact the future is extremely bright. And most of this proverbial future is tied to one player, who I’ve decided to call my little brother because I’m far too young to refer to younger NBA players as my “large adult sons”.
There’s really not much more that can be said about what Jaren Jackson Jr. represents for the Memphis Grizzlies as far as the future is concerned. He’s everything. He’s the connecting strand between the old and the new. Most importantly, he’s the reminder that the present and past struggles of the Grizzlies do not really matter in light of the better tomorrow that Jackson will hopefully create in Memphis.
And not only does Jackson help the Grizzlies both now and even more so in the future, his presence in the midst of the Grizzlies’ recent turmoil also prvides some life encouragement in a metaphorical sense.
We are all going to deal with different struggles in our lives, whether they be physical, mental or emotional. For many of you reading this, the holidays can be a particular time of the year when you feel darkness, and you can’t see light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe life is beating you to your knees, and you’re not sure if you can get back up.
However, I can promise you this: No matter how bad it may get, there is always light at the end of the tunnel, and there is always hope for a better tomorrow. It will always get better.
And whether it has to do with something as generally inconsequential in the grand scheme of things like the Memphis Grizzlies or with life in general, that is a beautiful truth to which we can all cling.