Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, Michael Redd always had Christ in his life. But since he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2000, the 29-year-old shooting guard has developed a stronger faith. Not long after he arrived in the NBA, Redd famously declared he would remain celibate until he married his wife and, by all accounts, kept that promise.
Then after signing a six-year, $91-million contract in August 2005, the NBA all-star used part of the money to help his father purchase a church. Redd’s father, the Rev. James Redd, is pastor of the Philadelphia Deliverance Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio. Before his son’s generous gift, the congregation worshiped in storefront and basement churches. At a time when NBA stars are glorified for their wanton lifestyles, Redd stands out as one who puts his faith first.
I talked to Redd about faith and basketball.
Have you always been spiritual?
Growing up in a household that included parents that were pastors and people that were involved in ministry, that’s all I’ve ever known. It wasn’t until I left home that I really developed a personal relationship with Christ. For so long as a teenager and a kid, you piggyback off mom and dad. They’re ministering, they’re pastoring, so I think I’m automatically getting a pass to heaven. And that wasn’t the case at all, I found out. I had to develop my own personal relationship with Christ and begin to communicate with Him on a deeper level pretty much when I left home to go to the NBA.
Was there an incident that led you to become more spiritual?
You go through your prodigal son experiences. You go through things in life that you wish you never did. But at the same time you know that’s not the way because you were taught as a young age. The scripture says parents train up the child the way he should go and never depart from it. That’s what happened to me. Going through some things in life, issues in life, and saying, ‘You know what God? I need you. I need a real experience. I need a Damascus experience like Paul.’ It hit me maybe around 22, 23 years old and I really did say, ‘Let me rededicate my life to Christ again and get serious and really get focused on really living this thing for real.’
How much does your faith impact your daily life?
Every day I rely on my faith to be the best husband I can be, the best father I can be. I rely on my faith not so much to score 50 points or win a basketball game, but you know travel, you travel so much in the NBA. We definitely pray for our health and our strength as we play every night. And you know just praying for that I can be a light for Christ even though I’m playing basketball because I know that’s what I’m really here for. It’s not just to play basketball but it’s to show who Christ really is. That’s my goal. It’s not necessarily to win a championship every year, which would be wonderful, it would be wonderful and that’s why I play, but I think ultimate success is if someone says what must I do to be saved? That’s the ultimate success. It’s an awesome responsibility but at the same time I love it, I love it.
What do you typically pray for or about?
I just mainly talk to God. I don’t necessarily get on my knees all day. I just pray to God help me with me, help me with me. God, you know my issues, you know my weaknesses, continue to cleanse me, continue to purge me, help me to be the best father I can be, best husband I can be every day, be the best teammate. Also, I pray for my family all the time, my friends, that’s an every day.
You don’t pray for basketball stuff?
Not necessarily. I never, believe it or not, I never worried about basketball. God, help me make shots tonight. God help me play. I’m not saying that’s not important, but I never pray for that because I know God’s got that taken care of. All I got to do is believe. I never worry about it though, honestly. I know God’s got my back.
How prevalent is religion in the locker room?
More than anything, I try help them [his teammates] realize it’s not about religion. It’s relationships. There’s a difference, and guys say, ‘I’ve been church hurt.’
I don’t understand that term ‘church hurt.’ Can you explain?
‘Church hurt’ means that they been prostituted. They go to church, and you know, pastor wants their money, things of that nature. They kind of shy away from church and feel like the church just wants their money. It’s not about that. Or I’m not ready yet. So you don’t try to be overbearing. But at the same I just believe in living it more than anything. And also if God gives me an opening to talk to them about the Lord I will. We have Bible studies on the road before every game. Like this morning, we had a Bible study. I led it. We have chaplains at every game. Usually 30 or 40 minutes before the game, we go to chapel service. We have our own team Bible studies in the morning on every road trip.
How many guys normally get together for Bible study?
About four or five guys. It’s not a lot.
When you lead a Bible study, what passages do you look for?
Discerning where our team is, if we’re losing or we’re struggling and also try to challenge the brothers to really live this thing and give your life to Christ and how it shapes my life. I just give them illustrations of the Bible because that’s what the Bible is made up of, illustrations, examples of what to do and what not to do.
I understand you also get together at center court after games with your teammates and your opponents to pray.
We have different guys, chaplains, come in and lead prayer. Sometimes [he leads it]. We basically just thank God for not necessarily a win or a loss but we just thank Him for health and strength and give each team safe travel, and that’s pretty much it.
Tell me about how you came to buy your dad a church.
The story is kind of twisted. I didn’t necessarily buy the church. I donated to the church, and they were able to buy it. I couldn’t buy it. I couldn’t buy the church legally.
Well, why did you do it?
You know what, beyond the love of my father and my mother, it was for the neighborhood. It was for people who didn’t have a place to go to, a refuge, to have a refuge. People who are hurting in that neighborhood needed a place to come to worship and get help so that’s what it’s for. My love for God, more than anything. God, I want to give you the first fruits of what I sign for. I want to be able to get you a church a building where people can come and worship. That’s why I did it.
What’s been you’re most spiritual moment in your life?
Spiritual moment? I think giving my life to Christ. Beyond that, maybe seeing my son be born. I know it’s a big natural thing, but it was also spiritual too. Those two things I would say giving my life to Christ and also the birth of my son.