NBA NEWCOMER DISCUSSES fame, faith and daily Bible reading.
Though they always considered themselves a lively “sports family,” Diane and Norris Cole Sr. never dreamed that their son — Norris G. Cole II — would play in the National Basketball Association
Such aspirations never were part of the couple’s “grand plan.” What was a part of their plan was their child-rearing strategy, neatly summed up in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he won’t depart from it.”
As a preschooler, young Norris “played church” with his sister and cousins. Since he was the only boy, he did all the song leading, praying and preaching. The girls were his congregation.
When he began playing basketball at age 3, his parents explained to coaches that if there were games or practices on Sunday or Wednesday night, Norris would either need to leave early or not be able to participate because of services at the Webster Street Church of Christ
in Dayton, Ohio. There would be no exceptions.
“His coaches respected our choice, and he never had a problem with his teammates teasing him,” his mother said.
A National Honor Society student and an athletic star, he was also an active participant in all phases of church life, often looking to spiritual examples such as his parents, uncles, church friends and minister Richard Melson.
While distinguishing himself as a basketball standout, he also completed a bachelor’s degree in health sciences from Cleveland State University in 2011. Drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the 2011 NBA draft, he was traded to the Miami Heat in a series of draft-night deals. Norris won his first NBA championship with the Heat in 2012.
Today he leads a frenzied life, but he attends services at the Miami Gardens Church of Christ
Recently, a Miami Gardens elder told his parents, “Norris just doesn’t know what an inspiration he is to the young people here. When they see him on television playing an out-of-town game on Saturday night and then here for services the next morning, they pay a lot of attention to that.” What does basketball mean to you?
Basketball has meant a lot in my life. It has put me in a position where I can support myself and my family.
Basketball also has allowed me to be a positive influence in my community and where I come from. Here at the Heat, we pride ourselves on reaching out into the local communities through basketball camps, Thanksgiving events, Christmas events, hospital visits, reading to kids, handing out school supplies and delivering food to the homeless throughout the season. What is most rewarding about playing in the NBA?
The most rewarding thing about playing in the NBA is that I get the opportunity to — both nationally and internationally — display my faith, my talents and represent my family in a positive manner.
I had another opportunity this past preseason because we played two games in China — one in Beijing on Oct. 11 and the other in Shanghai on Oct. 14. You can be sure I took my daily Bible readings on those long flights.
Another rewarding aspect to playing in the NBA is being a positive role model to kids that look up to their favorite athletes. The NBA helps me expand my influence in order to reach more kids and be a role model for young persons’ lives. How do you maintain Christian values in view of the pressure you face on the national stage?
It can be tough to maintain Christian values with the pressure of a national stage, but you just have to be disciplined. I try to shelter myself from different situations, read on a consistent basis and try to attend worship service.
I found a church in Miami that I attend — Miami Gardens Church of Christ
. In my hometown of Dayton, Ohio, I attend Webster Street Church of Christ
. They give me the strength I need in order to overcome any situation. What obstacles have you overcome to be where you are today?
Some things I’ve had to overcome include college, going to class, staying on top of my school work and grades — not to mention the physical and mental obstacles. Staying in shape and always being ready to perform can take a toll on your body, so you have to be prepared at all times.
Also, dealing with the fact that I am now a public figure and everybody is watching my every move can be difficult. But it comes with the territory. I pride myself on making the right choices and doing the right things. Those are some of the toughest obstacles that I have had to overcome — and still have to overcome on a daily basis. Who have been the main spiritual influences in your life?
My main spiritual influences have been my parents. They are the ones that paved the way for me to grow up in the church, attend Bible class and go to service every Sunday and Wednesday.
They taught me to have God in my life first, and everything else will fall into place. I can’t thank them enough for how they raised me, and I strive to make them proud every day. Can you share any important church-related experiences from your life?
I participated in Bible bowls with local congregations growing up in Ohio. I was with Webster Street Church of Christ, and we would compete in fun games with Northridge Church of Christ
— games where each age group from one church would play against a similar age group of another church. Each team was awarded points based on questions about Scriptures and other facts from the Bible.
Also, growing up in elementary school, I would go to Christian camps. My uncle would always take my cousins and me. We camped, had activities throughout the day and also had a time of day for devotionals. It was both a physical and spiritual camp. Do you have any life advice for the many high school and college-level athletes out there?
My advice is to be a well-rounded person. Even though you are an athlete, that doesn’t determine entirely who you are. My best advice is to have something else you can relate to, something that can help complete you as a person.
For myself, I was a good student, and I had faith in Christ, which helped to give me balance in my life. It also helped my mind to relax, to know that even if I wasn’t able to play sports, I’m not a failure. I’m still somebody. My best advice is, even though you are an athlete, make sure you are developed in other areas of your life. Do you have a favorite Scripture?
One of my favorite scriptures is Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It’s one of my favorites because, like the Scripture says, I can accomplish anything as long as Christ is first in my life.