At the age of 25, Giannis Antetokounmpo had won the NBA’s defensive player of the year award and the NBA’s most valuable player award twice. In both of his MVP seasons, Giannis and his team, the Milwaukee Bucks, were dominant during the regular season, but for both years they had disappointing losses early in the playoffs
This past season was another strong regular season, but Giannis was doubted – he was labeled a dominant regular season player who wouldn’t be able to win a championship without another superstar. After losing the first two games in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals to the Brooklyn Nets, the criticism around Giannis and the Bucks grew louder. But the Bucks clawed back against the Nets to win the series in game 7. This past week, Giannis was dominant in the NBA finals on his way to a championship and winning the NBA Finals MVP award.
His legacy is forever changed. A month ago, he was on the brink of another disappointing playoff loss and an offseason of questions about whether he can be “the guy” on a championship team. Now at 26, he’s a champion and has been crowned the league’s best player.
The narrative flipped quickly, and I can’t help but think about how fragile these outcomes are.
With one second left in game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Nets, Kevin Durant hit a long two-point shot to send the game to overtime. Durant’s toe was barely on the line. If his foot was back one inch, that shot counts for three points and the Nets beat the Bucks and advance in the playoffs. One inch back and there is no coronation of Giannis. One inch back and the chorus of the media members claiming Giannis isn’t a superstar would grow louder.
I don’t write this to discredit Giannis, but I write this because it highlights the fragility of outcomes. And it isn’t unique to sports. Listen to this excerpt from this Wikipedia page on the Battle of New Orleans (emphasis mine).
“[General]Pakenham inexplicably decided to withdraw all the soldiers after seeing the left side of his reconnaissance-in-force collapsing and retreating in panic… Luck saved Line Jackson on this day and this was the closest the British came during the whole campaign to defeat Jackson.”
How different does our world look if the British captured New Orleans?
We may not want to admit it, but the outcomes we experience are often defined by small, seemingly random occurrences that are out of our control. How do we navigate life knowing this? I think the first step is to acknowledge that on our own we are flying blind – this statement is as true for the Christian as it is for the Atheist as it is for the Hindu. And for those of us who belong to Jesus, we listen for the voice of our shepherd and trust him to lead us. Jesus is the fulfillment of thousands of years of prophecy so there are no random occurrences. He alone can lead us to abundant life.