It is an untold story in many ways, all 30 NBA teams have volunteer chaplains who hold prayer circles with players who wish to observe their religious beliefs before every pro basketball game.
Calling the services a “spiritual ankle-taping,” a recent piece in The New York Times highlights some of the volunteers who serve players’ religious needs from coast to coast.
Former player Andrew Lang, for instance, caters to the needs of players at Philips Arena before every Atlanta Hawks home game.
Lang, who retired from the NBA in 2000 after a twelve-year career, played with the Hawks from 1993 to 1996
“As a player, if I was open in the post, it was, ‘Hey, let’s go!'” Lang told the Times. “Those days are over. You have to be patient with these young men. It’s their time, their choice. It’s for their enrichment. You have to accept that, sometimes, you have to wait.”
Atlanta is just one of the 30 NBA teams with pregame chaplains. For some it is a ritual never to be missed.
Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors says that almost half the team engages in a service before each game. “It’s a little different than just sitting there, reading some Bible verses by yourself, as opposed to getting the word with others and really studying and praying together,” he said.
Visiting teams also make use of the home team’s chapels and volunteer chaplains. Lang noted that when the Orlando Magic recently visited Philips Arena, nearly the whole team joined him at his pregame service.
The paper did note that there is some opposition to the pregame services, mostly by coaches—most of whom wanted to remain anonymous for fear of criticism. Some coaches feel that the pregame services are a distraction for players.
But it seems that the services enjoy a solid place in the NBA, especially give the fact that every team now features its own chapel service open to all coaches and players.
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