Competition and Christianity


Cleveland Cavaliers' Tyler Zeller shares how his faith shapes his outlook on competition, basketball, and life.

I’ve got to give my parents a lot of credit for making me the person I am today. They took me to church every Sunday. As a little kid you draw pictures and everything, but over time you start to develop an appreciation for that, and you start to pay attention.

I came to faith my freshman year of high school. My brother took me to a couple of Bible studies and then to a camp, which is really where I got to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I embraced that as my own – what He did for us, how He died on the cross and took all our sins away and gave us the life that we shouldn’t be able to have.

Being competitive and being a Christian can go hand in hand. You’ve got to go out and play hard and compete, but you also have to do it in a Christian way. If you lose, you can be hard on yourself, but you don’t want to go curse up a storm, hit somebody and all this. It’s about the way you act. You can be very competitive, but you’ve got to be able to win in the right way and lose in the right way.

Audience of One is a huge concept in my life. It means that even though you have all these fans and things going on, your audience is really only God. Your main focus is on what He believes about you, not what all these people think. Maybe you missed a game-winning shot and you’re very frustrated. But God still loves you, and there’s a purpose for everything. Maybe He wanted you to miss that shot to learn a lesson, or there’s something down the road, or maybe you just weren’t supposed to win that game. There’s always something. When you can understand that, it makes life so much easier. You can go out – you’re going to lose, you’re going to be frustrated at times – but you can come back and know that God’s got a purpose for you. He’s going to give you what you need to have, but He’s also going to challenge you in ways. When you face challenges, it’s going to develop perseverance in you and help you, and going forward it will make you a stronger person and a stronger Christian.

The line that I always use is Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I know if you look at the actual verse it’s not speaking in terms of basketball, but God really does strengthen me emotionally and physically. He’s always with me, always getting me through things, in basketball and in life.

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