If NBA Teams Were Churches


I love sports and the lessons that go along with them. When Paul writes in 1 Corinthians that the church is like a body- and that every part matters- we can see that application in sports in some good and bad ways just as we can see good and bad examples of churches functioning (or not) as a body. So I wanted to highlight some NBA Teams and the churches they represent. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

1. The Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers. Magic. Kareem. Kobe. But the 2016 Lakers are not your mama’s Lakers- nor are they the Lakers that I recognize. Certainly there were the glory days but now the team is in shambles. Second worst record in the league. Why? Management caters to an aging superstar on a team that lacks a supporting cast.

We know these kinds of churches. Laker Churches. They had their glory days but now are being handcuffed by one or two families who think they run the show. Nothing can happen in the church unless it is run through (Kobe) the influential family. This mentality is killing the church. They say, revival is just a few funerals (or retirement) away.

Stephen Curry

Warriors at Wizards 2/3/16

2. The Golden State Warriors: The Warriors just had one of the greatest single seasons ever in the history of the NBA. They have an exciting young core led by Steph Curry. They appear committed to one another and to the goal of multiple championships. What remains to be seen is their staying power.

I see the Warrior representing the “Hot Church” in town. It may be a new and dynamic church plant or a revitalized congregation. Their ministry growth includes a unparalleled music ministry and dynamic preaching. What remains to be see is whether these “Hot Churches” have the structures in place to deal with growth, discipleship, and adversity to have long-term staying power and impact in the community.

3. The Philadelphia 76ers: While most people know what the Lakers need I am not sure anyone knows what the 76ers are doing or what they need. There appeared to be a clear vision (tank and collect draft picks to hopefully draft a superstar or 2), but then 3/4 into the vision they fire the architect. It remains to been seen whether or not a new vision will develop. Until then, everything is in limbo.

Churches, like the 76ers, can struggle to have a clear, coherent, and attainable vision. It seemed the 76ers were trying to be innovative and change the process of rebuilding. Sometimes a church can set a course for clear change in their structure, their ministry, and their focus (all good things) however if the right results do not come fast enough there can be backlash and a change of vision- often back to what feels safe and comfortable. This can leave everyone wondering, “What is going on?”


4. The Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavs have Lebron- which is almost all you need in the Eastern Conference to head to the championship series. Lebron left Cleveland for Miami, won some championships, and now has returned home. It’s a great story. And Lebron is a great player who makes the people around him better. The question with the Cavs is whether or not they have enough pieces to work with Lebron. If they don’t provide a fully stocked roster (need 2 stars in the NBA to compete) then questions will remain as to whether Lebron becomes Kobe and does it all himself, or, Lebron burns out and takes his talents to…


The Cavaliers Church is not a King James Only church (though that would be fun to write about), but the church that has a pastor or leader who works to make everyone better. Everyone knows that the pastor or leader is capable of some great ministry on their own, but their desire is to fully engage the rest of the church in ministry. The success of the church depends on whether the church will buy into the Pastors/leaders willingness and desire to get everyone involved. If the church members will not get involved, share ministry, and make each other great then the pastor/leader can be prone to burnout and frustration and may seek another place to serve.

5. The San Antonio Spurs: I believe that the Spurs are the premier NBA Team- and have been for over 20 years. With Greg Popovich as coach, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli the Spurs have a wise and experienced core that knows how to handle every situation. The Spurs also excel at bringing in younger and role players who learn the game and fundamentals by some of the best in the league. Their emphasis on fundamentals and teamwork are not often exciting (Spurs are often considered boring) but leads to great results.

I want to be in a church that operates like the Spurs. Everyone on that team knows and understands their role. Even their superstar, Tim Duncan, who is at the end of his career knows how to get the most out of his body and those around him. Their coach often sits their best players for an entire game- which gives the other players on the team experience that they could not get elsewhere. They are not flashy but they are sound in everything they do.

A church needs more than a great leader. More than a great band. More than a excellent program. It needs everyone growing in the fundamentals of their faith and getting involved in the ministries of the church. The church cannot rely on a handful of people for ministry but must constantly be discipling and giving opportunities to those who are “next up” or new to the team. A great church, like a great basketball team, does not run 1 or 2 people deep- but has a deep bench where everyone has and knows their role in order to accomplish their purpose: making disciples of all people.

What other NBA Teams are remind you of churches that you’ve been in?

About Steve LaMotte

Husband of Andrea and father of four amazing children. Pastor of Orchard Church in Magnolia, Delaware. Elder in the Pen-Del Conference.
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