Devotional: John Wooden Uses Platform to Espouse Biblical Virtues

By Chad Bonham

UCLA Men’s Basketball (June 4, 2010)

When legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden passed away just four months shy of his one-hundredth birthday, the tributes that poured in were as numerous as they were diverse in their scope. Wooden hadn’t just impacted the sports world, but people from all walks of life.

Certainly, those reporting on his life’s work mentioned the obvious successes on the basketball court. Wooden won an NCAA record ten national championships including four undefeated seasons. His teams set a men’s basketball record with eighty-eight consecutive wins. Wooden also coached some of the greatest college players to grace the hardwood such as Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Bill Walton, Gail Goodrich, Walt Hazzard, Jamaal Wilkes, and Marques Johnson.

But after he abruptly retired in 1975 following that tenth national title, Wooden became more intentional about sharing his teachings with a larger audience through the iconic “Pyramid of Success” and his famous “Seven-Point Creed.” Number four on that popularized list pointed towards one of the major influences in Wooden’s life.

“Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.”

“My father read to us from the Bible every day when I was growing up,” Wooden wrote in his book One-On-One With John Wooden. “I continued that practice into college and throughout my life. My dear wife, Nellie, and I read God’s Word together and we read it to our children.”

“I didn’t read the Bible to please Mom, Dad, or Nellie,” he continued. “It was a habit I enjoyed very much. I don’t say that with any degree of pride. It was a habit of love, not one of requirement or drudgery. It wasn’t just something to do, it was never a chore, and I enjoyed it.”

One of Wooden’s favorite Bible passages was not surprising for those who knew him best. Known as “the love chapter,” it exemplified the way he coached, the way he led his family, and the way he treated others.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13)

“Love is the greatest word in our language,” Wooden said in the book Serving. “When we have love, many of our problems disappear. Differences are manageable when love has its way. I’m sure my regard for love comes from my reading of the Bible…We can give without loving, but we can love without giving. In fact, love is nothing unless we give it to someone.”


This devotional is brought to you by Museum of the Bible, a 430,000 square foot museum being constructed 3 blocks south of the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. and is set to open in November of 2017.

(Photos: Public Domain)

Author: CSJ Admin

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