Here at GetReligion, we talk a lot about holy ghosts in sports stories.
But here's a nice change: a major newspaper feature about an NBA rookie that nails the crucial faith angle.
The headline gets right to the point:
Faith and prayers help guide Celtics’ Semi Ojeleye
And the opening narrative sets the scene:
As Gordon Hayward lay on the court Oct. 17, his left ankle snapped sideways, his season over essentially before it even began, Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry knew he had to do something about the rest of the team.
Head coach Brad Stevens was with Hayward, touching his shoulder and letting his former Butler University pupil know he was there. The other Celtics were scattered around the court, several with their hands on their heads, lost in a daze. It was just five minutes into a season that held such promise, and now it was already dissolving in front of them.
Shrewsberry called to rookie forward Semi Ojeleye, a second-round pick from Southern Methodist who didn’t expect to have much of a role on this night. Shrewsberry had gotten to know Ojeleye over the previous few months and knew how much he was guided by his faith. And in this crushing moment, that’s what the Celtics needed.
Ojeleye was initially startled, because he thought Shrewsberry was telling him that he would be going into the game. Instead, the request was about something more comfortable.
“Semi,” Shrewsberry said, “can you just bring everybody together, and can you help us pray for Gordon?”
This is not a long profile — it's a concise, 800-word feature for a daily paper.
But the writer does an excellent job of capturing the essence of what Ojeleye believes. The Globe quotes Ojeleye and others, including Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens, about the rookie's faith.
I did have one unanswered question, though, as I kept reading: I wondered about Ojeleye's specific denominational background and home church.
No worries: Himmelsbach supplies those relevant details in the next-to-last paragraph:
He attends Antioch Community Church in Waltham and considers himself a non-denominational Christian. He thinks the divide between some sects goes against the tenets of Christianity. He also does not push his religion on others, and he emphasized that he has respect for people of all beliefs and backgrounds.
Holy ghosts? Not this time. This story delivers — to put it in a basketball vernacular — nothing but net.