I don’t watch much basketball except a few NCAA Final Four games. We have good friends who are big Baylor Bears fans. We met them on a cruise ship and noticed that they regularly wore Baylor green and yellow apparel. Yesterday, Baylor played Notre Dame in the NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Tournament Finals. We watched the game since we knew our friends would really want Baylor to win. It was an exciting game that was decided in the final few seconds. Both teams are athletically talented and gave it their best. Both teams deserved to be National Champions.
What impressed me most was not their teamwork, shooting, defense or block shots. It was after the game concluded. Baylor’s All-American star, Lauren Cox, was injured during the second half and unable to play. Baylor’s long-time head coach, Kim Mulkey, hovered over Lauren as she laid in pain on the hardwood basketball court. Lauren’s pain was Coach Mulkey’s pain and it was not because she lost her star player. She acted with true love for her player. This child was her child in pain at that moment.
After winning the NCAA Championship, a TV reporter interviewed Coach Mulkey and commented on her tears. Here is what Kim Mulkey said:
“Lauren Cox! My God, she’s the heart and soul of our team. And I just know she’s hurt because that kid would’ve gotten up. But you know what — God is good. He blessed these kids. They fought through it.”
She then went on to complement Notre Dame’s basketball team. She praised other Baylor basketball players. Her tears were both joy for her ‘kids’ and sorrow for Lauren Cox’s injury and pain.
When the Baylor team stood at center court to receive the trophy, they announced the winner of the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. It went to Chloe Jackson who scored 26 points during the game — her last 2 points won the game for Baylor. Chloe looked surprised when her name was announced and stepped up to receive the award. When it was time for her to speak, she stated that the award should have gone to Lauren Cox, her injured teammate. She said that Lauren was the leader of the Baylor team and the best player. The team looked up to Lauren for inspiration and they were saddened by her injury.
Most major athletic events center around winning. When athletes score or make big plays, there is dancing, flipping, bragging and intimidating. Self-promotion rules over humility. Self-love rules over love of your teammates and opponents. But God’s spirit was present during last evening’s nationally televised college basketball game between two schools that are affiliated with religious institutions. Both teams understood the bigger picture: love of God and neighbor is more important than a basketball game. Love won.