Basketball has been a huge part of our lives. Your grandma was a great basketball player, the gift apparently skipped a generation, and then you picked up the game. From rec games to travel ball, from middle school to high school, I have absolutely loved watching you play the game. We have watched our UNC Tarheels win two NCAA championships together, and I treasure those memories with you. I also treasure hearing the movie Space Jam played on repeat.
This last letter will not be a long one, so that you remember its message with clarity. NBA Hall of Famer “Pistol Pete” Maravich is still considered by many to be one of the greatest offensive players ever of the game that we love so much. He rose to the level of the game that so many little boys dream of achieving. While at that level, however, he found many of its rewards to be empty, and then gave his life to Christ. Instead of being rememberd for his points per game average, he once said that he most wanted to be rememberd for being a good Christian.
Pete Maravich was invited to be on the radio talk show of Christian psychologist Dr. James Dobson. Before the appearance, Dr. Dobson invited Mr. Maravich to join a Tuesday three-on-three basketball game at a church gym. After the game, Dr. Dobson asked the basketball great how he felt. Pistol Pete said, “I feel just great,” and then dropped to the floor. Pete Maravich died in that gym at age 40 from complications of a rare heart defect he did not know he had.
When Dr. Dobson went home that night, he went home to a 17-year-old son. He told his son Ryan, “What happened to Pete Maravich today was not an isolated tragedy. This is the human condition. Sooner or later, somebody is going to tell you that I am gone. I want you to … be there on that grand resurrection morning. I will be looking all over Heaven for you. Be there, because that’s the one thing that matters, that you stay true to Christ and that you are found worthy to spend eternity with me and your mom and your other friends on that day.”
The only way we are found worthy is to be found in Christ. When the time comes to die, trophies, accolades, expensive cars, and big houses mean nothing. Pete Maravich once told a huge crowd at a Billy Graham Crusade, just before he was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame, “I wouldn’t trade my position in Christ for a thousand NBA Championships, for a thousand Hall-of-Fame rings, or for a hundred billion dollars. There’s nothing like the joy of Jesus Christ in your life.”
Watch that recorded video of Pete Maravich, and consider the words of a man who held in his hands the awards that many young men’s dreams are made of. None of those awards could purchase entrance into Heaven. Mr. Maravich had no way of knowing he would die so young, but he was prepared for death because he had accepted the free offer of forgiveness and cleansing that makes us acceptable into a perfect Heaven.
So I say to you, my son, “Be there.” I want you to have a great career, a nice home, a beautiful family of your own… but above all, I want you to have Christ so that whenever death invades your physical body, your soul will be eternally with the Lamb who gave Himself for us. I want you to be there in heaven. Make sure you are there. Just be there.
I love you forever and I want you to be with Jesus and me forever,