Sports have become such a significant part of American society that athletes are commonly viewed as celebrities. While many of these talented professionals use their fame for personal gain, some have used it to highlight something larger than themselves: their Lord Jesus Christ. Read on to hear about four athletes who glorify God on the court, floor, field and mat.
Professional basketball player Stephen Curry currently competes for the San Francisco Golden State Warriors. He was drafted in 2007 as a first-round pick and has played on several national teams, competing in the FIBA World Championships and World Cup. Widely regarded as the greatest shooter in NBA history, he has incredible stats in most categories, including a 90.8% free throw percentage, which is the highest in the league.
Curry has been outspoken about his faith since the beginning of his professional career, wearing a blue wristband during games that says “In Jesus’ Name I Play” and writing scripture references on his shoes. He recognizes the amazing influence he has through basketball, including starting his Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation that focuses on ending childhood hunger.
Despite his huge successes on the court and many awards over the years, Curry still looks forward to the greatest award of all. In an article for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, he wrote, “I know I have a place in heaven waiting for me because of Him, and that’s something no earthly prize or trophy could ever top.”
The 2012 Olympic gold medalist, Gabby Douglas, won the all-around competition at only 16 years old. She went on to be part of teams that won gold in the 2016 Olympics as well as the 2011 and 2015 World
Championships. Douglas is well-known for her stellar performances and her composure under pressure but even more so for her steadfast faith in the Lord.
She points to her faith as the reason for her success and told ESPN that “He [God] is the secret of my success. He gives people talent.” Raised in a Christian home, her mother stressed the importance of always turning to God for help. Douglas got first-hand experience with this concept as her family struggled with poverty and homelessness throughout her childhood. She used these trials to learn the value of determination and perseverance, which motivated her to pursue her dreams.
Despite all her hard work, Douglas recognizes that at the end of the day, all her accomplishments are thanks to the Lord. She told Christian Today that “God has given me this amazing God-given talent, so I’m going to go out and glorify his name.”
Denver Broncos quarterback, Russell Wilson, has been playing in the NFL since 2012 when he was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks out of college and named Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year. He’s competed in nine Pro Bowls, played in two Super Bowls and holds the record for most wins by a quarterback. In 2019, he was the highest-paid player in the league, and he is considered one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
He is not only a man of talent but also of faith and service as Wilson is well known for his Christian beliefs and community service. He has volunteered at children’s hospitals, visited soldiers and donated significant amounts of money to many different organizations, including the Charles Ray III Diabetes Association and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. When asked about his community service by CBN, Wilson stated his faith was the driving force behind his actions: “I believe God placed me in this city for a reason. That never wavers for me. I’m going to trust that the Lord’s put me here.”
In 2020, Wilson won the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award for his assistance during COVID. In his acceptance speech, he paraphrased 1 Corinthians 13, saying, “Remember this one thing, love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love changes things.”
American wrestler Helen Maroulis is the 2016 Olympic gold medal winner for women’s freestyle wrestling, making her the first American to win gold in the sport. She also won gold at the 2011 Pan American Games and 2015 World Wrestling
Championships. In 2020, she won bronze in women’s freestyle wrestling and is the only female American wrestler to win two medals.
Growing up, Maroulis struggled with her identity and tried to find her value in winning wrestling matches. She recalls thinking that while God loved her, “wrestling is the only thing that’s making me feel worthy right now.” However, setbacks and disappointments led her to rethink this mindset. Realizing God is the only thing that will truly satisfy her spirit, she adopted the mantra “Christ is in me; I am enough” to remind herself of her true identity in Christ.
Now, she remembers that “God doesn’t need me for wrestling, and I don’t need wrestling for this platform. If I want to be a good teammate or if I want to live through faith, for example, I don’t need a gold medal to do that.”