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Jason SmithI wanted to be the best and didn't care how I got there.
Jason Smith grew up in Melbourne, Australia, where Australian Rules Football captured his enthusiasm for running and jumping. After having his front teeth knocked several times his mother convinced him to consider another sport, so he turned to basketball.
His passion for basketball began when his whole class gathered to watch Australia play in the Olympics. Then a basketball clinic at Smith’s school turned his heart to pursue the sport with vigor. Jason went to college in California to develop his court skills and when he made his big break into the Australian National Basketball League (NBL) in 1995 with the South East Melbourne Magic, the two-time Olympian readily admits that basketball was his god.
Like many rookie sportsmen and women enjoying their first taste of the spotlight, Smith was seduced by the bright lights, glamour, and the media attention that went with it. But it also had a downside. Smith admits he was so focused on basketball that he began to isolate himself from family and friends. “Basketball was my idol and I worshipped it,” he says. “I wanted to be the best and I didn’t care how I got there.
“I didn’t value a lot of friendships like I should have,” he adds. “That is something I still regret.”
His obsession with basketball came at a price: loneliness. To combat this, Smith poured even more time into the sport. Every day was spent training and conditioning his body so it would perform at its peak. But his life was spiraling out of control. It took a serious knee injury to instill a sense of reality, to help him realize basketball wasn’t everything and there was much more to life. His physical fitness, the foundation on which he had built his life, was crumbling and it was at this point that he came to a life-changing realization: It was only God who could really satisfy.
In a simple prayer, Smith asked Christ to become the new foundation for his life, and that decision started a transformation of his attitude. A spiritual-training regime began to take shape. “To get where I am today, both spiritually and physically, has required a lot of training,” he says.
“I’m very thankful that God has given me a beautiful Christian wife, Carla, who has had a significant influence on my faith,” Smith says. “She taught me the need for a different type of training—a training in righteousness. Getting into the Word of God (the Bible) helps put things into perspective. My relationship with Jesus keeps me balanced and helps me make wise decisions, not only on the court but off the court too.”
In 2003, Smith joined the champion Sydney Kings team and quickly established himself as a key player in the club’s rise to the top of Australian basketball. Smith’s influence in the lives of his teammates made a significant contribution to the Kings, finally shaking off their tag as perennial losers.
“When I first joined the Sydney Kings the team had a few problems, but things gradually began to turn around,” says Smith, the team captain. 'Changing the Kings' culture was a team effort including massive input from the coach, players and the support staff.
“I like to think that I’ve helped play a part in this change of attitude, just by supporting my teammates and setting a positive example. I’m so blessed there are a few Christian guys in the Sydney Kings as well as a Christian chaplain.”
Smith acknowledges the valuable support of family and friends and his church in keeping him grounded in his faith, and also not getting too carried away with his star-status in Australian basketball. “Just like the importance of working as a team when playing basketball, I’ve learned that the Christian walk is also a team effort,” he adds. “Outside of basketball, I generally like to hang out with people from my church in different types of fellowship and Bible studies.
“Being a Christian and making a difference in the sporting world isn’t too hard. You just need to stand by your Christian principles. My prayer is that God will be able to use my walk and talk in a powerful way to bring other people into a relationship with Him.”