Heroic Stature

In the past five months the National Basketball Association has gone from the model professional sports league to a league with a very uncertain future. First, there was the lockout that resulted in the cancellation of the first three months of the season. Then came the retirement of Michael Jordan. Sports writers now wonder what the league can do to regain the loyalty of its fans. Well, a good place to start would be to shine the spotlight on an athlete all kids ought to have as a role model: David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs. Robinson is the kind of sports hero that many parents pray their kids will emulate. For starters, Robinson was a true "student athlete" who majored in mathematics at the U.S. Naval Academy. After making the All-America team during his sophomore season, he could have transferred to another school and gotten out of his service commitment. Instead, Robinson stayed on at the Academy, kept his word, and then served two years on active duty in the Navy. Robinson is also a great player. He was voted one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history and was an original member of the Olympic "Dream Team." Robinson's contributions on and off the court prompted his former coach Bob Hill to call him the NBA's greatest asset. Says Hill, "If my kids grow up to be half the man David is, I'll die happy." There's more. Last year Robinson donated more than $5 million to create a foundation that provides recreational and social services for poor kids in San Antonio. Now, it shouldn't come as a great surprise that Robinson is a committed Christian. Yet, instead of seeing the value of his faith, a lot of critics use Robinson's Christianity against him. These critics doubt whether Robinson has what it takes to lead a team to a championship. As Sports Illustrated writer Leigh Montville put it, "A traditional knock against born-again athletes is that they don't have a win-or-else passion for their games." In effect, the critics are saying that not only is character not essential, but it might even be detrimental. They're suggesting that the truly great person is willing to do whatever it takes to succeed, no matter what the cost. Well, there are many reasons that Robinson hasn't won a championship: lack of support from teammates, injuries, and, of course, Michael Jordan. But instead of considering these things, his critics focus on his faith. The way the sports community has responded to Robinson's Christian character mirrors our culture's increasing contempt for moral excellence. It's this disdain for the importance of character that lies behind the public's apparent indifference to the events in Washington during the past 13 months. Only time will tell if Robinson will lead his team to championship glory. But this much, at least, is clear: Following the recent impeachment trial, many people are seeking role models for their children to emulate to counter the idea that you can lie and cheat--and get away with it. Well, David Robinson is someone any kid can look up to--literally, as well as figuratively--a hero who, morally speaking, doesn't drop the ball.


Chuck Colson


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