Could Jesus Ball?

We asked a pastor, a professor of religion, two doctors, & a former NBA all-star one important question: Would Jesus Christ make a good basketball player?

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Complex Original

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He was the GOAT before Jordan, The Answer before Iverson, and The King before James. The Truth before Paul Pierce, The Servant before KD, and God before Shammgod. He is The Creator and The Finisher, The Almighty Heir who became "The Chosen One" without the need of intricate back tattoos or millions in sneaker company backing. But one important question remains:

Could He ball, doe?

Jesus Christ understandably means a lot of things to a lot of people. For centuries mankind has debated everything from His birth to His hair texture, and although there are currently over 2.2 billion Christians worldwide, a reported 33,000 different denominations tells us there have clearly been some disagreements along the way. But we're not here to discuss the nuances of biblical text or minor discrepancies concerning His diet. Nor are we here to ridicule or offend.

We simply want to know if He could ball. So we asked some friends for help.

Starting Lineup:

Pastor Rich Wilkerson
Senior Pastor, Vous Church​
Officiated the marriage of Kim Kardashian to Kanye West in Florence, Italy.
Docu-series for Oxygen Network expected to air December, 2015
Book Sandcastle Kings hits stores this November with artwork by Kanye West & the Donda Creative Team

Kenny Anderson
14-year NBA veteran
First-team All-American at Georgia Tech
Former NBA All-Star

Dr. Cavan Concannon
Assistant Professor of Religion ​at USC
B.A. Study of Religion / Ancient Greek, UCLA, 2001
M.Div. , Harvard Divinity School, 2004
Ph.D. New Testament and Early Christianity, Harvard University, 2010​

Gary S. Evans, D.P.M.​
Board Certified in Foot Surgery, American Board of Podiatric Surgery
Board Certified in Podiatric Orthopedics
Diplomate, American Board of Podiatric Surgery
Fellow, American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons
Member, American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine
Member, American Podiatric Medical Association
Member, New York State Podiatric Medical Association​

Dr. John Brummer
Doctorate of Podiatric Medicine at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine​
Former team doctor for two semi pro basketball teams
Member, American Board of Podiatric Surgery
Fellow, American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons
Member, American Podiatric Medical Association 
Member, New York State Podiatric Medical Association
President, New York Division of the New York State Podiatric Medical Association

Spurs Jesus
Spurs Superfan
​Crime Fighter
Spreads Spurs love around the world while giving back to his community


Pastor Rich Wilkerson: In my opinion, He would crush at basketball. I think He would dominate. He’d be the man. This is Jesus we’re talking about. He can walk on water—what kind of dunks could He do?

Kenny Anderson: He would be awesome. Better than Michael Jordan, Kobe, LeBron. No doubt. He blessed all of them to play the game, so He would be the top player. Top rebounder, top offense, top crossover, top 3-point shooter. He would be able to do everything. He could be like, "I want to win ten championships," and He’s going to win ten championships. If He wants to do it, He’s going to do it. So it be cool.

Historian Cavan Concannon: Maybe He could be an outside shooter. I say that because He was probably short. He’s Middle Eastern, so typically He would be shorter. He’s from a culture that did not have very good medicine and/or nutrition. So He’s going to be wiry and short. So He’s probably going to shoot from the outside, that would basically be all He would be able to do. 

Spurs Jesus: I would say Jesus being a man of many miracles and talents could probably do some amazing things on a basketball court if He so pleases. Also, I don’t know if He can walk on air—He can walk on water—but I’m sure He probably could throw down a nasty dunk or two if He felt like it.

Pastor Rich Wilkerson: In terms of scripture, the Bible says, “What’s impossible for man is possible with God,” so I think there’s nothing impossible for Jesus. And we see all throughout the scripture Him doing miraculous signs and wonders. So I just think if you put a basketball in His hands, how creative could He be with that? I mean, does He have to even move? He can just stay in one spot and shoot all day and never miss. He’s perfect so I think if He played basketball He’d be pretty perfect at it.

Historian Cavan Concannon: Jesus doesn’t seem to move very fast in any of the stories about him, either. He always seems to take a relatively leisurely pace through the countryside. He occasionally hikes up to the hills, so he might have some leg strength there but I don’t think quickness would be the way I describe it.

"He’s Middle Eastern, so typically He would be shorter. He’s from a culture that did not have very good medicine and/or nutrition. So He’s going to be
wiry and short."
—Cavan Concannon

Kenny Anderson: I would think Jesus would be a left-handed player.

Spurs Jesus: I definitely think Jesus would be a headband guy. 

Kenny Anderson:​ In the population of the world we don’t have too many left-handed people in general. So the people that are left-handed are very special in a positive way. We’re very unique people. 

Spurs Jesus: He’s got to get that hair out of the way man, you know? Definitely a headband guy.

Historian Cavan Concannon: Sports was primarily an elite activity because you need leisure to train and practice. Jesus would not have the leisure to train and practice. He’s someone from a poor village, from a very low-level family. So He’s not much of a city person; He’s not going to be around a court or the gym. And in Jesus’ culture there’s a lot of contention about those very spaces. The places where you would play games or train for games...those were things very much associated with Greek culture. And a lot of people around the time of Jesus felt that if you built those places in your cities you were giving up something of your cultural religious heritage—you were sort of betraying your roots.  So the traditional side of this century Palestinian culture had a relatively deep antipathy for athletic events.


Spurs Jesus: I’ll tell you what: It’s almost impossible to do a crossover in a robe. Trust me. I’ve tried.

Pastor Rich Wilkerson: I think if you and I played in a robe and sandals it would definitely be a game stopper; we’d have to roll that thing up probably and really tape those ankles pretty good. But I think for Jesus none of those things would limit Him. I think He’d be fine whether He’s barefoot or in sandals, robe, tunic, shorts—He’s good.

Dr. John Brummer: So first thing is if there is no ankle support there is a high chance of spraining your ankle. The other thing is most sandals are slack and don’t have very good arch support so you can strain the plantar fasciitis​, which is quite common. And there’s no cushioning or padding in sandals.

Dr. Gary Evans: I would say wearing sandals and the lack of support, His biggest issue would be an inversion sprain. Envision you're going for a rebound and you come down and your foot lands on somebody else’s foot and you roll your ankle—where you hit the outside of your foot and it rolls in. And you get that pain on the outer aspect of the ankle. That’s called an inversion sprain and that’s the most common type of ankle injury.​

Dr. John Brummer: I mean, if He’s Jesus He does not have to be strong. I think it’s more genetic than anything. Strength of ligaments and previous injuries and stuff like that. [Though] I would not encourage playing sports in sandals.

Dr. Gary Evans: RICE is key. But I don’t think that they would know that.​ I don’t think there was much ice around those days, so I don’t think He’d be able to ice [an injury]. And I don’t know if He would think of elevating it, which is the main thing we would do today. I suppose He’d be pretty good if he had a pair of Jordans, I guess.

Pastor Rich Wilkerson: Have you ever tried to play in sandals? It’s the hardest thing in the world but Jesus would somehow master it. We’d all be wearing sandals after he played. Air Sandals.

Spurs Jesus: For some reason, I just get this feeling that Jesus wearing the outfit He puts on would put Him at a handicap, with the sandals and the robe. I think that He would be able to pull up the J all day long. He can pretty much make sure that shot went in anytime He wants, you know?

Kenny Anderson: Oh, well, with the robe, He’d have to take that off and put His uniform on—be like everybody else. He’d be like, “I don’t want them to know I’m Jesus. So I’m going to just fit right in.” He’s probably trying to have his own locker room, some privacy, so people won’t be like “Hey, He’s Jesus!” So He probably will have to put the uniform on, and put the sneakers on.

Spurs Jesus: But you know what, I’ve played in some Jerusalem cruisers as far as sandals goes, and it’s not as hard as it looks. I got to block some shots real nasty in them, so I bet you J.C. himself could do a pretty sick job.​​

Kenny Anderson: That Dude is going to have some Jumpmans. Michael Jordan. He’s going to have some extra Jumpman’s on. He’s going to be wildin’ all over the place. He’ll be doing something real unique and different. It would be crazy! If He put the extra power in his mind and do something like, “Yo, I’m just going to fly from one foul line to another and dunk the ball.” He’d do stuff like that and everyone would be like, “Yo, this guy got some extra power!”

"does He have to even move? He can just stay in one spot and shoot all day and never miss. He’s perfect."
—Pastor rich wilkerson


Historian Cavan Concannon: There are these stories about Jesus that don’t make it into the bible—these really ancient stories. One of them is a book called The Infancy Gospel of Thomas. There are stories of Jesus as a kid, and [how] Jesus did all sorts of crazy things in His village to freak people out and mess with them.

Pastor Rich Wilkerson: I think that He would show compassion in terms of—I don’t think He would be extra with stuff. But I think He would play to win [and] play the rules right.

Kenny Anderson: I think He’d be compassionate. He would outdo them and win, but He’d have the ultimate sportsmanship, you know?

Spurs Jesus: Compassion? Maybe. Take it easy? No. But I would say that He would forgive a hard foul. 

Historian Cavan Concannon: In The Infancy Gospel of Thomas text it does seem to suggest that early, young Jesus was a little [more] scary to be around than happy miracle-working Jesus. But again not canonical, but it was a very popular text throughout the early Christian period. So it got around, and [stories] of Jesus being a little bit scary with his miracles was something that early Christians thought was possibly valid.

"I definitely think Jesus would be a headband guy."
—Spurs jesus

Spurs Jesus: Now, I think He’d be one of those types of dudes that would ball on His competition just because He’s competitive. But being the nice guy that He is, He would let his fellow competitors win, just so they don’t feel bad. You know, He’s the man of the people. 

Pastor Rich Wilkerson: I don’t think He’d be braggadocio or trash-talking. I think He’d let the game speak for itself like, “Just check out the scoreboard.” He’d be doing “Finish him” moves the whole time. Those were His last words so I can imagine that on the court.

Kenny Anderson: Knowing Jesus, if he was playing the game, he’d probably lose sometimes. Just to say, “Hey, you know I’m not that nice, I lost tonight.” Then He’d recover and win a championship. Somehow it would be a teaching point. B-ball, football, golf—whatever it was, I think He would really teach guys how to be a team player.

Pastor Rich Wilkerson: Jesus was all God and all Man so I think that when he’s playing basketball in order to be fair he’d be more man but the man side was pretty perfect. So I don’t know.

Historian Cavan Concannon: There’s a story of [young Jesus] sitting by the river and making birds out of the mud, and He’s doing it on the Sabbath—and from the gospel you are not supposed to make stuff on the Sabbath. And so some kid tattles on Him and the priest comes over and is like, “Hey, you are violating the laws of the Sabbath” and Jesus just turns the mud into real birds and they fly off so there’s no evidence of Him actually doing anything on the Sabbath. So [in regards to compassion] I guess it depends on what Jesus we are talking about.


Historian Cavan Concannon: Well he definitely wouldn’t play a very physical game. Always about turning the other cheek. He’s not going to be in the key, you know what I mean? Definitely not a LeBron [type]. I’m thinking of little outside shooters. You know Muggsy Bogues was always teeny but he was a little more physical; he was able to pull it off and was really fast. I’m thinking because of the shortness maybe like a Steve Nash? But Steve Nash was fast too. I wouldn’t think of Jesus being a fast player, you know what I mean?

Spurs Jesus: You know what, I’ll go with my man Marco Belinelli. Just because Belinelli looks like he could stand in as a Jesus double. And he is just a stand-up guy who has one hell of a three ball.

Pastor Rich Wilkerson: We're being cute and humorous about it but obviously Jesus—for the record—is everything for me. Jesus is the greatest topic in my life. He’s my lord and savior and every answer we’re looking for on Earth is found in Him. I think He’s so big that He also enjoys humor and fun. My only request is that we understand that obviously we’re kidding around, joking, but He means everything to me.

Kenny Anderson: Right now, it's based on generation. Right now, He’d probably be LeBron. Back in the '90s, I think he’d be like Michael Jordan. Back in the '80s, he’d be Larry Bird. He could choose. I would just ask Him, I would pray, be like, “Yo, tonight just play like Kenny Anderson. Be like Kenny Anderson tonight, or maybe the week. Let me hang out with you too after the game.”

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