A conversation with Norris Cole
NBA NEWCOMER DISCUSSES fame, faith and daily Bible reading. Though…
Oklahoma City — Down 14 points early in the first quarter, the Oklahoma City Blue’s Kevin Hervey drained a quick three-pointer from the left wing, just outside the paint.
“There’s Hervey!” yelled Ed Murray, the Blue’s play-by-play announcer, as a large section of the crowd came to life, roaring, “Kevin! Kevin!”
“And there’s the church group!” Murray said of the noise. “They’re sittin’ right behind us.”
Members of the Memorial Road Church of Christ were in the stands to support Hervey, a 6-foot-9-inch power forward for the Blue, the minor-league affiliate of the Oklahoma City Thunder, as they hosted the Minnesota Timberwolves’ affiliate, the Iowa Wolves. Church members purchased 500 tickets for the game. It was one of the largest bulk group purchases for the team this season.
And the game was a thriller. Church members watched the Blue fight their way to a tie before Richard Solomon picked up a loose ball and scored with 0.3 seconds left on the clock, giving the Blue a 110-108 win.
But basketball was only part of the reason the Christians were there. As fans filed out of the Cox Convention Center, the church members gathered near the court for a devotional.
“This is an arena; you’ve gotta sing out,” said Scott Young, the church’s worship minister, before he led “Our God, He is Alive.”
“There is, beyond the azure blue; a God, concealed from human sight …”
Joining them, dressed in his white, postgame sweats, was Hervey, a second-round draft pick by the Thunder. A few weeks earlier, during Memorial Road’s Sunday service, he went forward after pulpit minister Phil Brookman’s sermon. He placed membership with the congregation and asked for prayers as he returned from injury to play with the Blue.
After the hymns, sitting on chairs just inches away from where Hervey hit the three-point shot, he and Brookman talked about the rigorous pairing of professional basketball and a life of faith.
Hervey said he draws inspiration from another Church of Christ member, Norris Cole, who won back-to-back national titles with the Miami Heat during his first two years in the NBA. Cole worshiped with the Miami Gardens Church of Christ in Florida and played for the Thunder in 2017. He has since played in Israel and now is on a EuroLeague team in the nation of Montenegro.
“He’s a guy that I look up to and have spoken to,” Hervey said of Cole. “He’s a man of faith. He does things the right way.
“That game was one of the more loving moments that I’ve ever felt and I will remember it for the rest of my life!”
“After you win a championship, there’s anything and everything at your disposal,” Hervey said, but rarely do the spoils of fame honor God.
As a result, “he’s alone a lot,” Hervey said of Cole, “and he’s comfortable being alone because sometimes it takes what it takes to be a Christian … He’s sharpening his mind with reading and inspirational videos. And since I’ve been here in OKC I’ve been trying to implement that.”
A supportive congregation helps, said Hervey, who grew up in the New York Avenue Church of Christ in Arlington, Texas. His father, Charles, a church elder, was at the game — in a Kansas City Chiefs shirt and cowboy hat — along with his mother, Denise.
“I try to attend church every time I can,” Kevin Hervey said. Looking toward Hervey’s parents, Brookman added, “I can attest: when he’s in town, he’s at church. He’s a blessing.”
Kevin Hervey was a standout player for the University of Texas at Arlington despite nagging knee injuries. He led the UTA Mavericks to a 27-9 season, the most wins in school history. He signed a one-year deal to play in the NBA’s G League.
“Because of my injury, they want to see me go through a whole season healthy, evolve as a player,” he said, “so I’m here with the Blue.”
He draws inspiration from his coach, Mark Daigneault, who tells him to “be where your feet are … not worrying too much about what tomorrow brings. That stuff’s going to take care of itself. You have to worry about attacking the day.
“It’s applicable to basketball, but also to life,” he said. “Like God says, tomorrow’s not promised and yesterday’s already passed.”
Instead of worrying about what might (or might not) happen, “give it your best,” Kevin Hervey told his fellow Christians. “If you put your faith in God, he’s going to carry you through.”
Even in the middle of an arena, Brookman added, “That’s the point where you’re supposed to say, ‘Amen!’”
After the devotional, “Kevin stayed for a long time to sign autographs and take pictures with fans, especially the younger ones,” Brookman said. “One mom said, ‘It’s such a gift to have outstanding Christian role models like Kevin for my children.’”
Hervey later sent a thank-you note to his church family.
“I am grateful and truly blessed to have found a Christian family that makes me feel welcome and loved,” he wrote. “I appreciate the relationships that have been built here — and the prayers and well wishes on my career — but, more importantly, my walk with Christ.
“That game was one of the more loving moments that I’ve ever felt and I will remember it for the rest of my life! It’s always reassuring to know that, no matter what happens in this life, you have a forever family that will love and support you and is willing and ready to help.”
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