The NBA finals seem to hover around Father’s Day week and as an avid basketball fan it always brings up nostalgic moments for me. Many of my family members were and still are athletes, me being one of them. Soccer, track and field, netball, cycling, cricket and basketball were a normal pastime. Notoriety and winning were in our DNA on the island. I love the team sports however I have leaned more heavily on the players of any team (many know Tom Brady and Steph Curry and Micheal Jordan’s lessons are always on my lips :)), who translate their journeys into teachable moments for life, leadership and the art of co-existing failures with triumphs. And of course I see God lessons in them all.

This is one of the reasons why I love the sports seasons and at this time the NBA season because of the stories of human vulnerability and intimacy which span the gamut of deep pain, shame, joys, rebounds, foul plays, penalties, perseverance, and wins, which emerge out of these god-like machine-ish athletes at the end of the season. 

So as the Celtics raise their 18th NBA Championship banner for this 2024 season, I am excited to read the powerful stories coming out of both theirs and the Dallas Mavericks camps, especially the mountaintop triumph of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Al Horford and in addition, the behind the scenes stories of player-dad relationships. However, the combo of the finals and Father’s Day caused me to reflect on the 2022’s season where the Golden State Warriors (GSW) defeated the Boston Celtics in Game six.

One of the revelatory stories which still impact me today was about GSW’s Shooting Guard Gary Payton, ll, who’s deeply personal and intimate moment with his dad on the night of their championship win gave a picture of the goodness and generosity of God who loves to see us win and helps us do just that.

His dad said that night that as a father the better feeling is watching his son win the championship versus him winning. But as all human/parental relational dynamics are, these two men saw disjointed strain on their journey to that moment. 

In an article “How GP2 quieted his dad during growth as basketball player,” by Joaquin Ruiz published on December 17, 2023 Gary Payton, ll shared

“Growing up, (Gary Sr.) always wanted me to have that dog in me because he had that dog in him.”

Processing this at first sounded amazing and of course as parents we want our children to have a similar drive in them or an attribute/character trait to us which we feel will be beneficial for their success. I get it, his dad just wanted to see his son win and experience the bliss of success like he did…But at what cost? 

Reading further I quickly related to one of the expensive costs of an imbalanced and at time esteem killer approach of pushing our kids to succeed only through our lens of what that would look like to our satisfaction without the developmental room for God to help them discover their own unique God given strengths in addition to what our DNA passed on to them. GP2 continued to say this, “He told me that I wasn’t really a good basketball player, but not in those words. He kind of lit a fire under me because me and him were always [butting heads] growing up, and I just wanted to prove him wrong.” 

Then the article continued …”Payton II admitted his struggle with finding the “dog” that his dad prominently had.”

Phew…a rollercoaster peek into the mind and heart of an adult struggling through his global success to please the heart and mind of one person…his dad. A dad who I am sure had all good intentions as parents have but may be unaware of the deformation effects which immense pressure, unhealthy, and unrealistic expectations can have on a person’s esteem and process of individuation.

He was a grown man still experiencing childlike struggles to please dad.

It made me reflect on my own struggles with perfectionism as a result of the expectations to always bring home that 100% on exams. 99% was never enough and I had to account for the missing points in addition to the anticipation of something of value being taken away as motivation to do better. But what that did to me as an adult was never being satisfied with my best because that voice of my dad was always asking me for that drive and success which was in the family DNA. There was never a point of rest and celebration. I could not live there because the statement of climbing all the way to the top of the academic ladder was the point at which I would feel that my dad could be proud of me. It was not explicitly told but sometimes kids, even adults can get the message from the lackluster celebration over what are deemed as small wins. I am sure that I am not alone in the exhausting quest to feel good enough in all areas of life so that our parents can finally be proud, especially our dads. I see you too!

The Good News!

The Payton men’s father-son story did not end at the disjointed rift of expectations and frustration from failing to meet those expectations but they healed and this father was able to convey and pour into his son a healthier and affirming message of support and pride for the unique and talented man that he was, in multiple real time interview on the night of his son’s victory, Gary Payton said his son Gary Payton, ll (GP2), did not want to participate in the celebration therefore he remained on the Warrior’s bench crying. He went on to share his son’s testimony with the world about how GP2 went through a rough journey of 6 years being passed over, cut, and not getting opportunities to play professional basketball. But then the tear jerking moment for me came when this once unbending father said,

“I had to go over to him to tell him he needs to participate because he needs to acknowledge the victory… as a father the better feeling is watching his son win the championship verses him winning.” 

He then said, “Talk to my son, get all the story from my son. I want the camera focused on my son!”

Finally, he said this was his son’s time and now put his son’s picture next to his as champions! 

Phewwwww man. I feel this to the core! What a difference from the messages which induced inadequacies to those of validations of unique giftedness.

The Really Good News!

So how did all of this translate for my personal journey, understanding the good and honorable intentions of my father, and the most important one, with my Heavenly Father who is constantly hoping that I would receive all the healthy constructive and affirming messages to me as I play this game of life with Him as my dad and coach? The answers are not just for me…they are His messages to you also. 


  1. Our Father God loves us and loves to see us win!
  2. He is a Good Good Father!
  3. Winning is in His DNA!
  4. Our victory is in Jesus! He is already the greatest Champion this World has ever seen and as His child we are champions in the making! 
  5. There is no competition with God! He has given us unique and individual gifts which make us special and partners with us to help us win!
  6. Failure is part of character formation and tears are ok to express those moments of our humanity and brokenness. But God will be by our side every step of the way and remind us that we have permission to honor those emotions through our losses. He feels them too!
  7. We MUST remember to celebrate each and every one of our wins. Why? Because He is celebrating each and every one of our wins over the enemy also! 


Our Father-son/daughter story with God is the real story of love raising us the best way so if you must remember only one thing from this reflection, remember this…Our Father Loves to See Us Win!


1 John 5: 1-7 (KJV) 

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.



My biological father (deceased)

My adoptive father (step dad)