For the Love of the Game
Original Post: June 4, 2019
Recently I had the weirdest thought I’d ever had: "I wonder what it would be like to stop playing basketball?"
I was playing 2K after a long day at work—something I've recently begun doing to unwind—and I really imagined what it would mean for me to retire from the game of basketball.
Basketball has always been more than just a game to me. I fell in love with hooping at a young age. The squeaks of the freshest kicks screeching across the hardwood, the rubbery ring of the ball dribbling in an empty gym, the staccato swoosh of the net after draining a jumper from my favorite spot on the court. You either love it or you don't and, well, I've always been enamored with it.
But what if I gave all of that up?! I couldn’t fathom it. I didn’t want to think about it. I couldn’t even believe my mind would conceive such a thought. I was clearly buggin’.
But...maybe I wasn't.
As I finished my game of 2K, I called one of my homies and we talked about getting to the gym for a workout later that night. He's a professional athlete as well, so I asked him if he'd ever had any thoughts of quitting, and he responded with a very clear and concise, "NAH." I couldn't help but laugh at the quick rebuttal. We continued to talk about the workout, but I wasn't fully engaged; my mind was reeling.
I was beginning to imagine what my life could look like without basketball.
I'd just hit my career-high in points a month before, dropping 52 points in one of the many highly competitive men's leagues I play for. I was in such a zone that night there was nothing anyone could tell me, and it was a direct result of the grind I was putting in. I was training five days a week, which included 5:30 a.m. lifting sessions and skills work in the evening. Since coming back from a pro stint in Europe in 2017, I've been fixated with getting better and getting back overseas to make money playing ball. It consumed my thoughts, it tailored my decisions and quite frankly, it already felt like a full-time job.
For the next five games straight, I couldn't even score 20. I was becoming increasingly frustrated with my game and somewhat confused. I dreaded waking up to lift, and workouts and an open gym just seemed to further expose my inability to produce. I sucked and I couldn't figure out why.
Now fast-forward to me reclining in my chair playing video games, thinking about giving up hoops, and it all makes a bit more sense.
I was falling out of love with the game.
Basketball was beginning to feel like a 9-to-5 job. And even worse, it was a job I hated going to. I felt like it was no longer a give-and-take relationship; basketball was my pimp and I was working tirelessly day and night but not receiving any benefits of my hard work. I needed to recalibrate. You know, get back to the basics.
As I continued to mull over early retirement, God started to remind me of all the other gifts he'd blessed me with. For example, writing. I'd even put this blog on the back burner while focusing on my jump shot.
It's my career goal to be a sports analyst (hopefully I can get Paul Pierce out of his chair); there are so many other things I want to do with my life that doesn't include me dribbling the ball.
I realized that my scope of what God created me to do had become too small. Life has more to offer me.
I called my mom and told her about what I was thinking and as any good mother does, she gave me some of the best advice ever.
"PJ, you've accomplished more playing this game than some people ever dream of. You played all four years of high school, you achieved your goal of playing D1 in college and you played pro ball overseas. You've had a great career."
I sat quietly on the phone in a reminiscent daze. She was right. I'd put so much pressure on myself trying to prove to everyone I still had it that I'd forgotten about what God had already blessed me with.
God wasn't leading me to quit playing—He was guiding me to shift my perspective. I had gone off the rails, trying to make it all happen in my own strength. I was reminded of John 15:5, "...apart from me you can do nothing."
So that night I came to a conclusion: I would no longer give 100 percent of my energy to basketball. Instead, I plan to split up my time pursuing my career goals while still playing semi-pro for the ABA and in my men's leagues. My love for the game has been renewed (actually, the other night I garnered LeBron-like stats finishing a game with 41 points, 9 assists and 9 rebounds). By the way, be on the lookout for the Cleveland Blazers this year. We're about to make some noise across the nation.
But most importantly, I got back to my first love: relying on Christ to achieve all my goals in life.
I guess that's the most important about this whole thing. How can we, the creation, try to accomplish anything without the help of the Creator? We can't! It's best to not even try.
You can catch me still working out at 5:30 am, and competing at a high level, but with an entirely new focus. For the love.
~ FaithnHoops ~