Friday Fives: The Top Five Sports Stories That Will Preach

If you preach, you know that using illustrations from sports can be a little tricky. While sports certainly provides “human drama,” there are many in the typical congregation who just aren’t that interested in sports and who may check out during a sports-themed story – or even consider sports in the pulpit too irreverent.

However, sports often can provide relevant true accounts that transcend the realm of athletics and can communicate meaningful truths. Certainly, the New Testament writers weren’t hesitant to refer to the sporting events of the first century Middle East as teaching tools (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Hebrews 12:1, etc.)

So, in that spirit, this Friday Fives presents the top five sports stories that will preach.

#5 Sara Tucholsky

The Story:

Tucholsky played Division II Softball for Western Oregon University. On April 26, 2008 in a game against Central Washington University, the 3-for-34 right fielder hit a three-run home run, the first of her career.

She was so excited she missed first and had to return to the base to touch it. But when she turned, she severely injured her knee and couldn’t walk, let alone run. Umpires ruled that if she couldn’t round the bases, or if a pinch runner had to be put in for her, the hit would be reduced to a two-run single.

And, by rule, no one on her team could help her.

On her team.

So Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace – two Central Washington players – picked her up and carried her around the bases for the completed home run.

That’s so much more than good sportsmanship.


#4 Eagles Football Play

The Story:

Keith Orr is a player with a learning disability on the Olivet Middle School football team in Olivet Michigan.

To get Keith perhaps the only touchdown he will ever score, the players went behind their coaches’ backs and set up a play where, when they were just about to score, they would take a knee on the one-yard line. Then, they would bring Keith in the game to score the touchdown, which he did. (The video is worth your time.)


#3 Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman

The Story: (This was originally shared with me by Kirby Dean, an outstanding Godly college basketball coach who attends our church.) It was March 12, 1958,  the night of the last game of that year’s NBA basketball season. Stokes, one of the dominant players in the league, drove to the basket, was fouled and fell, landing on his head. It would take three days for everyone to realize how serious his injury was. After a first round playoff game, Stokes became violently ill on the team plane. He suffered a seizure and was paralyzed for the rest of his life because of his head injury. But that wasn’t the end of the story. Stokes’ close friend and teammate on the Rochester Royals, Jack Twyman, cared for him for the rest of Stokes’ life, even becoming his legal guardian so he could help pay some of his medical bills personally. In 2012, the NBA announced that the friends would be honored with the annual Twyman–Stokes Teammate of the Year Award. A powerful story of friendship.


#2 Derek Redmond & His Dad

The Story:

At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Redmond was running in the 400 meters when he tore his hamstring and pulled up. Determined to finish the race, Redmond began struggling to the finish line. That’s when his dad, Jim, bolted past security from the stands and joined his son. Both crossed the finish line together.

How deep the Father’s love for us…


#1 Jason McElwain

The Story:

This story is at number one because it is likely the most well known of the five.

Jason is a young man with autism who loves basketball. On February 15, 2006 Jim Johnson, his coach at Greece Athena High School near Rochester New York, allowed him to suit up for the team’s last home game. Suiting up was a thrill for the enthusiastic team manager.

But there’s more.

With 4:19 left in the game, Coach Johnson put Jason in the game. (In the game!)

But there’s more.

In that 4:19, Jason scored 20 points, including 6 three-pointers.

The video, of course, went viral.