This coming Sunday, on Christmas Day, the NBA will begin its truncated, late-starting season with five top-flight games (Boston-NY, Miami-Dallas, Chicago-Lakers, Orlando-Oklahoma City, and the Clippers-Golden State). This basketball bounty of top teams was intended to be a flashy reboot of the 2011–2012 season, but flash is not what is needed right now. The NBA is suffering from a severe credibility crisis. That crisis began with the labor dispute that robbed fans of the opening weeks of the season. It was a dispute that was far too public and often far too nasty as the owners and the players took turns blasting at one another in the media.
Once the dispute was settled, however, things got even worse as free agents scrambled to sign with teams and teams scrambled to make trades that could strengthen their squads for the remainder of the season. When commissioner David Stern disallowed the trade of Chris Paul from the Hornets to the Lakers, cries of “Foul!” and “Conflict of interest!” could be heard throughout the basketball community. Now, not only are the motives of the game in question, the ethics are as well. It appears to be a dark time for the NBA.
Credibility is a huge issue in life. It speaks of our character and our consistency—or the lack thereof. The apostle Paul recognized the importance of credibility to our ability to represent Christ, prompting him to say to the elders of the church at Ephesus:
And when they had come to him, he said to them: “You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews” (Acts 20:18-19).
“You know” is the key phrase. He calls upon their observation of his life, his character, and his consistency to establish credibility for what he is about to say. The question before us is this: What do people know about us? Do they see in us self-promotion or a servant’s heart? Inappropriate attitudes or consistent Christlikeness? Self-centeredness or concern for others? It is an absolute fact—we will only have credibility in our witness for Christ if people see and know that Christ has made a difference in us. Paul was absolutely right. There is no substitute for credibility.
Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain