Kevin Durant of the OKC Thunder may have been the most popular Christian athlete in the NBA Finals this year, but rookie Miami Heat guard Norris Cole also brought his faith onto the court while contributing to his team's road to the championship.
Cole made a name for himself playing backup point guard to Mario Chalmers and managed to prove his worth in Game 4 of the finals when he helped the team come back from an 11-point deficit in the first half by scoring eight points. The rookie increased his minutes during the course of the postseason, and shocked many in his Eastern Conference Finals matchup against Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo.
Although the Miami Heat's news coverage revolved heavily around the "Big three's" Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh this season, Cole brought his own special contributions to the team. According to Heat forward James Jones, Cole helped transport the team in his green 1993 Chevy van with over 200,000 miles on it.
"The man of the hour is Norris Cole," Jones admitted after Game 4 on Tuesday. "He picked us up tonight."
While Cole has been vocal about his Christianity, he has also spoken up about the importance of his green van and its history of championships.
"Every championship I've ever won I had the van there," Norris told the Palm Beach Post recently. "The team thought it would be a good idea to bring it down here and continue the winning tradition."
Cole's parents bought the van for their family when he and his sister were children, and have kept it around during winning moments in their lives. However, Cole's father insisted that the van had a hand in helping his son win a championship for Dunbar High School during his junior and senior years.
"It's the championship van," Cole's father Norris Sr. said in a Springfield News-Sun report. "Every title Norris has ever won -- back to when he was playing for the Salvation Army and in junior high and those two state titles at Dunbar, and even when his Uncle Lawrence coached Tennessee State to an Ohio Valley Conference title and his Uncle Johnnie won the SWAC title at Texas Southern -- that van was there. It really is a championship van."
Although the family has credited their good fortune to the 1993 green automobile that Norris Sr. drove up until a few months ago, the young PG has also credited his Christian faith for his success.
Cole grew up attending the Webster Street Church of Christ in Dayton, Ohio, and began attending the Miami Gardens Church of Christ in south Florida after joining the Heat this season. In an interview with The Christian Chronicle before the Finals began, Cole admitted that it has not been easy adjusting to playing while staying committed to attending church.
"It's pretty tough, but any time we don't have practice on a Sunday morning, or we don't have a game or we're not the road, I'm there (at Miami Gardens)," Cole said.
However, the PG said he also gets DVDs of the services that he misses to watch later.
Becky Poe, who attended Northridge Church of Christ with Cole in Dayton, said his mother raised him to seek God first.
"I recall his mother telling me at the Bible Bowl that she was very proud of him for his basketball," Poe told the Chronicle. "But she always taught him to 'seek first the kingdom of God.'"