Jonathan Isaac hasn’t played in a few weeks due an ankle injury.
But the Magic rookie hasn’t stayed out of the spotlight.
He delivered a sermon Sunday at his church, which put the speech online. In the talk, he mentioned his teammates.
I invited my teammates. Right? I invited my teammates, and that was the scariest thing I’ve ever had to do yet. None of them came, but I took the step, and I invited them. When Doc told me, “You should invite your teammates,” I was frozen. I froze. I said, “What? I’m the rookie. I’m the youngest person on the team. I can’t tell them that I’m about to preach. What? They don’t serve the lord. What are they going to think of me? What are they going to say about me? What are they going to say behind my back?” I want to be a part of this team. I want them to love me, truly. I typed the message up, and I deleted it. I typed it, and I deleted it. I typed it, and I deleted it. And finally, I was like, “You know what? This isn’t about me. I’ve got to take myself out of the equation. I’ve got to do what god is telling me to do.”
This is interesting on a couple levels.
I think it’s generally worth knowing what drives players. Religion is clearly an important part of Isaac’s life. That has anchored many athletes, but it can also create a burden, as Dwight Howard discussed.
Religion can also unite teams – or divide them. While coaching the Magic, Doc Rivers – himself very religious – ended team prayers once he noticed Muslim player Tariq Abdul-Wahad appear uncomfortable during the Christian prayers. A former teammate said David Robinson caused a rift in the Spurs’ locker room due to his proselytizing.
There’s also something to be said for teammates backing each other. Attending Isaac’s church for a day can be about supporting him, not adhering to his religion.
Of course, his teammates are under no obligation to attend. They’re co-workers, not necessarily friends. Maybe they just didn’t want to spend there free time with Isaac. Maybe they were busy. Maybe they felt uncomfortable going to church. There’s a whole range of possible reasons for each teammate, the way it affects team dynamics – on and off the court – varying accordingly.
Based on his sermon and follow-up statement, Isaac is going about this the right way. It can be nerve-wracking to ask people to join in something. That can be a meaningful experience in and of itself.
For the Magic, this provides another lens for which to assess their chemistry and camaraderie.