'You can't give in': an incredible story of faith and forgiveness by NBA coach after wife's tragic death

"Dude. This was a hard read. Never take anything for granted, because every normal day is a blessing."

I first heard about Sports Illustrated's in-depth feature on former Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams when my son Brady tweeted the above comment.

Then my friend Darin Campbell posted a link to the same story on Facebook with this note: "If you read one thing this week, read this." One of Campbell's friends followed his advice and replied:  "I'm not sure there is a verbal response for this."


Suffice it to say that Sports Illustrated senior Chris Ballard dives deep and insightfully into the life and mindset of "Monty Williams, the woman he loved, and the power of persistence":

Interest in the story of Monty and Ingrid Williams has been extremely high, of course, since the tragic death of the coach's wife 14 months ago. I wrote more than 200 GetReligion posts in 2016, but my most-clicked one concerned holy ghosts in initial reporting on the Williamses.

Days later, Monty Williams' faith-filled remarks at his wife's funeral at Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City rocked the sports world:

Now comes the Sports Illustrated piece, which fills in the gaps of Monty and Ingrid Williams' journey — before, during and after the events of Feb. 9, 2016 — in a way that's hard to explain.

You just have to read it:

The low point came last March. Or maybe it was April. Monty Williams isn’t sure. Time blurs. 
For two weeks Micah and Elijah passed the stomach flu back and forth, as five- and eight-year-olds do. They threw up on the carpet, in the bed, on the bathroom floor. Everywhere but in the toilet and the trash can. Finally one night, well after midnight, they combined for a particularly messy episode. As his three teenage daughters slept in nearby rooms, Monty—who’d spent a lifetime in basketball, first as a player and then as a coach, most recently as an assistant for the Thunder—stumbled out of bed and herded the boys into the shower, then into clean pajamas and back to sleep. Next he cleaned the rug, scrubbed the tile floor and disinfected the toilet. He longed to go back to bed but knew Ingrid never would have left the sheets to sit overnight in the laundry room, clumped with all that sickness. Which meant he couldn’t either. He’d promised the kids nothing in their day-to-day lives would change. If anyone’s life was going to change, he’d said, it would be his.
So at 2:30 a.m., Monty trudged downstairs and out the back door into the cold Oklahoma night, where he hung the sheets over the fence. As he hosed them down he shivered and stared up at the sky, feeling lost. He was supposed to be sleeping next to his wife, or watching film, or on the road with his team. 
Instead he was here, alone and overwhelmed. How in the world is this my life? he wondered.

Yes, faith figures prominently.

A young Ingrid Williams is described as "the girl drinking water instead of beer. The one not afraid to talk about her faith, right off the bat, but who never proselytized." 

Readers learn about the progression of Monty Williams' Christian walk:

And yet Monty says he was putting on an act. Inside he was prideful, self-critical and prone to bouts of darkness. He spoke of faith but his was, he says, “nominal at best.” When adults weren’t around, he cussed up a storm. And when he prayed, what did he pray for? An NBA contract and fast cars. 

And how many mainstream press reports offer this level of spiritual depth?:

Ingrid’s faith was different, though. Never convenient, never for show. Every week she disappeared for hours at a time in the afternoon. Finally, he asked where. So she brought him along and Monty watched, confused, as Ingrid spent two hours at a nursing home with a woman named Helen, one he was pretty sure was suffering from Alzheimer’s. Ingrid brushed Helen’s hair, talked with her, bathed her. As an athlete, Monty had been taught to perform charitable acts for the camera. But here was Ingrid, a young black woman, caring for an old white one, not for the cameras or a pat on the back. When he asked Ingrid why she did it, she looked at him funny. Wasn’t this what Christ taught us to do? Monty was floored. “It was so real, and raw,” he says.

I'll resist the urge to copy and paste the entire thing and simply urge you to read it.

Read it all.

Image via Sports Ilustrated

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