Friday, June 18, 2010

Pete Cummings: 3 Truths From the Greatest Basketball Player Ever on How to Make the Game-Winning Shot!

"During the last game when most of the players were pretty tired, Pete shot the ball from the top of the key from well behind the 3-point line and made the game-winning shot!"


Who comes to your mind when you think of the greatest basketball ever? If you are like me, you probably think of someone who played professionally in the NBA (National Basketball Association). Although the best basketball players in the world do play in the NBA, the greatest basketball player ever never played in the NBA, or at the college level or on their high school team.

The greatest basketball player ever, Pete Cummings, teaches us 3 simple and profound truths through his God-given talent of playing basketball.

In the book of John of the New Testament in chapter 9, verses 1-9, Jesus Christ heals a man who was born blind by restoring his eyesight. The people ask Jesus why this man was born blind and in the 3rd verse Jesus says the man was born blind so, “that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” Keep this thought on your mind as we learn Pete’s message together.

The second to last time I played basketball with Pete Cummings was on January 21, 2010. On this particular afternoon, Pete was having a hard time making shots from the outside. We played for 90 minutes. And when we play, we play all out hard. Pete must have taken and missed at least a dozen 3-point shots.

Although he could not find his rhythm on this day he kept himself prepared without fail for the next good opportunity to shoot. When a good opportunity presented itself to shoot the ball again, Pete was ready and shot without hesitation. He shot with the same confidence as if he had been shooting well all day. He kept playing with the right mindset of teamwork. Pete did not stop.

During the last game when most of the players were pretty tired, Pete shot the ball from the top of the key from well behind the 3-point line and made the game-winning shot! It was a big-time play to win a very close and hard fought game.

Even though he had not made a 3-pointer all day long he still took that shot with the confidence he was going to make it and win the game for his team.

We said to Pete how awesome it was that the only 3-pointer he made all day was the last one he took and also the game-winner!

Truth 1: “Trusting In God, Plus Our Best Effort, Equals Victory!”

To make our goals and dreams come true, we need to keep going after them with the same preparation and confidence to make them come true no matter what the circumstances. It does not matter how many times we might have previously failed, just keep shooting with confidence. Heartache or suffering changes in an instant when that game-winning shot is made.

As demonstrated by Pete’s actions or exercising of faith, when we trust in God, we receive the power to win. Namely, we receive the power to keep shooting with confidence, to not give up and to get back up when we get knocked down no matter what the odds might seem to be. As long as we do our best by giving our best effort, in God’s own way and time, He will help us to hit that game winning shot!

Truth 2: “Stay On The Winning Team”

Many times in life it can seem to us that God is not really there, that He really is not helping us to win. We keep doing everything we can that is in our control but we keep missing our shots and wonder where God’s help is at. Of course we do not want to lose, we want to win. In these discouraging times of doubt we are tempted to change teams because it can seem like we are actually on the losing team.

I was on Pete’s team that last game and I was exhausted. Before he took the game-winning shot I positioned myself directly under the basket to get ready for the possible rebound. I remember seeing Pete closely defended as he launched the ball. I could only see a part of his arm as he shot and see the ball as it rose over the defender toward the hoop. It was a very difficult shot. As the ball flew through the air I boxed out Dan McMillan for the possible rebound and I remember thinking to myself, “Please go in because I am really tired.”

Remember that the game has already been won. Stay on the winning team, even if it may seem like you have no chance to win. When it seems like you are in the 4th quarter with very little time left on the clock and the opposing team has a huge lead, stay on the winning team.

God will appear and come out of what seems like nowhere to hit that game-winning shot for you and win the game. Even when you are tired, in basketball and in life, just keep moving forward and God will do the rest in His own way and time.

Truth 3: “God Reveals Himself Through Our Talents”

In playing basketball with Pete, being a direct witness of his talents and meeting his friends and family it is so obviously clear that Pete Cummings was born and meant to play basketball.

God has given each one of us divine gifts and talents to fulfill divine purposes. This is as Christ explained so “that the works of God should be made manifest in him,” when Christ healed the blind man.

A lot of people talk about Michael Jordan as one example of who is the greatest basketball player ever. Jordan used the body God gave him, did his best to cultivate his basketball talents, never gave up and ultimately fulfilled the purposes of the gifts and talents he was given.

Pete Cummings did the same. Cummings used the body God gave him, did his best to cultivate his basketball talents, never gave up and ultimately fulfilled the purposes of the gifts and talents he was given.

Anyone who simply trusts in God by doing their best, by not giving up and by staying on the winning team, fulfills their purposes and is the greatest ever.

The account I gave about the second to last time I played basketball with Pete on January 21, 2010 is only one example of how God revealed himself through Pete’s basketball talents.

Pete was in great shape. He was usually one of the first guys up the floor on the offensive end and one of the first guys back down the floor on the defensive end.

Pete was such a great passer. I was on the receiving end of many perfect passes from him on fast breaks and pick and roll plays. He was a team player from start to finish. He was always trying to cheer his teammates on and look for and acknowledge the positive things each person was doing to help each other win.

There were times when I was also having an off day shooting from the outside and I would hesitate before shooting another 3-pointer. However, I would hear Pete’s voice cheering me on saying, “yeah, that’s your shot Tim,” giving me the confidence to shoot again. Then I would knock it down and point back at Pete and thank him for the confidence boost.

Finish the Race Victorious!

On January 28, 2010, Pete Cummings without warning suffered multiple strokes. He miraculously recovered from the strokes just weeks later. As many of his basketball friends and teammates visited him in the hospital we were amazed as we witnessed Pete as a living miracle.

Pete talked about how he soon would be back to play basketball again.

When I met his mother, she said to me that, “Pete never gives up, he never quits.”

In the hospital Pete told his family he did not know why these difficult experiences were happening to him but that he was never going to give up.

Pete returned home from the hospital almost fully recovered from the strokes. When he was strong enough, he returned to the hospital once more for his scheduled heart surgery to strengthen one of his heart valves that was weakened when he had the strokes.

During the surgery Pete Cummings suddenly and unexpectedly died at the very young age of 35 on April 13, 2010. He is married and has 4 children.

In this account of Pete’s message, I talked about him in the past tense saying he “was” this or he “was” that but there is no “was.” Pete finished the race victorious and he “is.”

Returning to chapter 9 in the book of John after the blind man is healed, some people did not think the victoriously healed former blind man was the same person. But in verse 9, the victorious man says, “I am he.”

When I think of the greatest basketball player ever, I think of many who played in the NBA, I think of my dad, Timothy McGaffin Sr., and I think of Pete Cummings.

May we live and share the 3 truths of Pete’s message by helping each other, treating each other right and cheering each other on so we win together as a team forever victorious and triumphant.

Author: Timothy McGaffin II


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