(Photo: Athletes in Action/CP)
Three-time NBA champion AC Green and veteran NBA coach Del Harris were honored for their career and Christian faith both on and off the court Saturday during the NBA All-Star Weekend.
Former Los Angeles Lakers player AC Green received the 2011 Bobby Jones Award at the All-Star Breakfast in Los Angeles. The award is named after Bobby Jones, who was part of the 1983 NBA Champion Philadelphia 76ers team.
Harris, an NBA coach for over 35 years, was awarded the 2011 Jerry Colangelo Award, named after the former Phoenix Suns CEO and chairman of USA Basketball.
"The awards honor those that exhibit character, leadership and faith in the world of basketball, in the home and in the community. Both these individuals have done that and continue to do so," said Dave Lower, spokesman for Athletes in Action, which hosts the breakfast, to The Christian Post.
Through AC Green Youth Foundation, Green works with young people to help build their character and teach them moral principles like sexual abstinence until marriage.
Upon accepting the honor, Green spoke about the importance of making right choices. After becoming a Christian as a teenager, he said he started to make right choices instead of following what the crowd did.
It was difficult, he admitted, but looking back he said they were right and good choices.
Harris is involved in several Christian organizations, including the Del and Ann Harris Foundation, which is active in promoting Christian education, missions and other worthy causes.
In his over 50 years in basketball, with over 30 years in the NBA, Harris has more than 500 wins under his belt as a NBA head coach. He now serves as the general manager of the Texas Legends of the NBA D-League.
During his address, the former NBA coach said there was a time when he drifted away from his Christian faith and explained how he came back.
Harris' testimony was touching, recalled Lower.
"We are all human. We all err and make mistakes but God is still there waiting for us as He was with Del. He was very open about that," he said.
The All-Star Breakfast’s theme this year revolved around the popular quote, "Basketball doesn't build character. It reveals it."
Lower compared the individuals to a tube of toothpaste.
"When there's pressure, certain circumstances arise, and the tube of toothpaste gets squeezed then what is inside comes out. In the same way, these guys' characters get revealed as they play and as they coach," he explained.
Figures in the sports world usually make headlines for scandal – from NBA players charged with sexual assaults to NFL players breaking the law, like Michael Vick, who pleaded guilty to a dog fighting investigation three years ago.
"In the world of sports today, what you mostly hear about is guys getting in trouble with the law, doing things wrong,” Lower observed.
"We want to lift up those who are doing things right, living a good life, living a godly life to encourage the fans," he said.
"Here are really quality people. They have tremendous things to share with the audience in regard to their character and making right choices."
The 6th All-Star Breakfast also featured a special tribute to UCLA Men's Basketball coaching legend John Wooden. His daughter, Nan Wooden, former UCLA players Keith Erickson, John Vallely and Ralph Drollinger each shared personal stories about their relationship with Wooden.
"They spoke about the coach's humility, his love of God, his incredible character and how he conducted himself like that all the time," said Lower.
Athletes in Action, the sports ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, is represented in 96 countries around the world and on over 80 college campuses, according to Lower. The group's mission is to use the platform of sport so that everyone knows someone who truly follows Jesus.
AIA also honors other notable sports players throughout the year in their Sports Legend Series. In addition to the All-Star Breakfast, the ministry also holds Super Bowl Breakfast during the NFL title game and Legends of the Hardwood Breakfast during the Final Four weekend.
Another Christian event that took place during the NBA All-Star weekend included a NBA All-Star Chapel service on Sunday with renowned Christian speaker Francis Chan, author of Crazy Love.
Chan spoke about the importance of turning to God with your whole heart and not leaving anything behind, shared Lower, who attended the event.
"In other words, not just showing up once in a while or going half-heartedly but giving everything to the Lord," relayed Lower of Chan's message. "As you do that, he welcomes you, he takes care of you and provides for you and he speaks to the father on your behalf as you walk closer to God."