Playing basketball at the sport’s highest level, the NBA... Being selected as part of the NBA All-Rookie first team... A $20 million contract... It’s the stuff that dreams are made of, and the fantasy of every young player shooting hoops on courts from suburban parks to exclusive colleges. For Landry Fields, it was his reality. With all this by only his fifth season, he seemed to have it all—so why does he see a career-ending injury as a blessing?
Fields has written about the way in which the trappings of basketball superstardom allowed him to ignore the things in his life that he knew weren’t the way they should be. He freely admits that his success led to a sense of entitlement, and saw him “make a God of the NBA”. But while this misplaced faith was enough while his success continued, he soon discovered that it couldn't be relied on when things got tough.
“When I was playing for the Knicks, I knew God existed and disapproved of the life I was living (overindulging in alcohol and sexual promiscuity), but I preached a gospel of cheap grace to make myself feel better,” Fields wrote in an article on theologian John Piper’s website, Desiring God. “With the injuries, God exposed that I was relying on something other than grace painted to look like grace—a cheap grace that was as useful for my suffering as a cardboard cut-out of Jesus.”
I knew God existed and disapproved of the life I was living, but I preached a gospel of cheap grace to make myself feel better.
A series of injuries impacted his on-field performance, and for the first time he realised he couldn’t simply rely on his natural abilities to get him through hard times. Fields decided he needed something more. He credits that tough first year of injury, which he now calls his ‘wilderness’, with introducing him to a God who—unlike the NBA—would be there for him regardless of how successful a basketball player he was.
When Fields writes, “The only thing that lasts in this life is Christ. I started putting all my joy, hope, and life in God’s hands”, it’s clear that this is a man who knows first-hand how fleeting fame and success are.
But, while his career has come to an end, it seems he considers the new beginning worth the loss, writing that God “has made life happier for me than I ever could have chosen for myself as a selfish, short-minded sinner.”