Sometimes we get stuck seeing things our way. Would you like to see some things through another set of eyes? Maybe it will make you think and stretch or maybe just chuckle or shed a tear. Here is my world through my eyes...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Modern Heroes #1: Paora Winitana

I recently learned about a professional basketball player in New Zealand who is a Bishop in the church there.  He has become my most recent hero because he chose not to play basketball for the grand final championship on the Sabbath day.  As a result his team lost.  Paora Winitana is the starting shooting guard for the HBS Bank Hawks and was missed by his team. 
He has played for a few different teams but when he started his professional career in 1996 he was Rookie of the Year in the NBL.  He was captain of his team when they won the title in 2006 and he played on the silver medal team in the 2006 Commonwealth Games. 
When his coach was given a chance after the championship game he admitted that they might have been better with Paora playing but would not say unkind things about him.  Instead he said the following:  "These things happen in sport. Paora's my brother and he's come into his faith so I respect him even more. To stand there [on the bench] and go through that - I look up to the guy as a human being. If everyone strived to be like Paora Winitana, the world would be a better place."
It is evident that Paora Winitana is a good ambassador for the church and lives the gospel in a way that shines forth to others.  It also seems clear that he doesn't do that in such a way that he comes across as "holier than thou".  I appreciate good examples of those willing to live the gospel even when it isn't convenient. 

Latter-day Saint basketball player Paora Winitana made a commitment long ago to spend Sundays with his family and as a day of worship.
He is sticking to his decision this Sunday and will miss the National Basketball League final."I love basketball, but I am a father, a husband and member of the Church first," he says.
"Basketball is what I do, not who I am."
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints set aside Sunday as a day to remember the Saviour Jesus Christ, to worship, and spend time with family.

Here are some highlights of an article from 2008 that feature his faith and family prominently which can be read in its entirety here:

Paora Winitana joins Adelaide 36ers NBL side   
"It is one of a number of anomalies about the ordained minister with the striking resemblance to former pro wrestler and actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
"I'm very excited to be coming to Adelaide and grateful the club understands about Sundays," he said.
A bishop with the Church of Jesus Christ – Latter Day Saints, Winitana's faith prevents him from playing or training on Sundays.
Almost still a rookie at 31, Winitana played with the Breakers' breakthrough debutant in 2003-04, dropped out of the NBL to be with wife Tia and then-newborn son Paora, before returning to play last season with the Breakers' break-out team, NZ's first to reach the finals.
The NZNBL Rookie of the Year in 1996, he debuted for the Tall Blacks in 2002 after missing several seasons on a Mormon mission."

Here is a video that features Paora Winitana:
This from another article about the championship game that can be read in its entirety here:

As Wellington Saints coach Pero Cameron cut the net down from the hoop, about five metres away a well-known Hawke's Bay parent, beaming from ear to ear, played with his child.

Paora Winitana extended his arms in front of his chest in the shape of a hoop as his son, Mana, celebrating his third birthday, deftly sunk the ball with dead accuracy before yelping with delight.

That's all the action Winitana, a Mormon bishop, saw last night as the HBS Bank Hawks stumbled at the last hurdle of their Bartercard National Basketball League (NBL) campaign in Wellington.

Winitana laughed when asked if there was always next year, emphasising he battled with injuries for three years but this season played through without any hiccups.

"I played every game, bar the Sundays, and if I'm healthy I can always help," he said, revealing he had signed for two years with the Hawks.

Hawks franchise owner Rod Earnshaw didn't mince words, saying the timing of the play-offs in Wellington was nothing short of "political" considering they had banked on a Friday/Saturday series.

"It was changed because Sky TV could only cover [the grand final] on a Sunday and that had an immediate impact on us," Earnshaw said.

"I'm not a sore loser but I just didn't agree with the decision on Sky.

"I mean if you take the top man out of any team you're going to struggle," Hawks to 'learn from this', he lamented, lauding Winitana for standing by his religious beliefs and stance but feeling the code should accommodate for such commitment.
He took his hat off to the Hawks for a great season.

"The difference was we came out aggressive tonight and the guys were knocking down the shots," he said, adding Wellington upped the tempo and the Hawks got into foul trouble.

"Definitely, they [the Hawks] missed the Bishop. It's always good to have Paora on and they could have used him tonight," Johnson said

1 comment:

  1. what an awesome guy!!! and what incredible people who honor and respect his decision rather than talking down about it. i really liked that he emphasized that basketball is something he does, not who he is. he identifies himself by other characteristics which are far more important, not to mention long-lasting :)


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