Magic forward Jonathan Isaac remains hopeful in God during grueling ACL rehab

The unprecedented 2019-2020 NBA season, and along with it the NBA bubble at Disney World in Orlando, wrapped up earlier this month with another Los Angeles Lakers title. Yet for Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, the grind never stops.

Monday through Saturday, six days a week, Isaac can be found at the team’s practice facility rehabilitating his surgically repaired left knee. The most devastating injury of the 23-year-old’s basketball career came in the Magic’s second game of the NBA restart on August 2, when he tore his ACL and meniscus cartilage attempting a shot against the Sacramento Kings.

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“This is just what I have to do for now, but there will come a time when I play again. I still have hope. I still have a purpose. I still have a job that I go to and take care of business,” Isaac told The Athletic this week in his first interview since the injury. “But it’s definitely been my faith that has kept me encouraged and kept me going and the people that I’ve surrounded myself with and keep me lifted up. … I haven’t been down. I haven’t been upset. I’m just taking it in stride and moving forward and believing and knowing that God has more for me and this is just a process. This is a part of the journey.”

He is walking without crutches and can squat, although he still wears a knee brace. It is already known that he will miss the 2021 season.

Isaac previously injured the same knee on New Year’s Day 2020, and spent the entire COVID-19 layoff rehabbing that injury. He decided to return to play in the NBA bubble and made national headlines when he stood for the national anthem and did not wear a Black Lives Matter shirt.

“I went about it in my own way,” Isaac told The Athletic. “I know firsthand what it is to submit yourself to God because I’ve done it myself. I know what it is for hearts to be changed because I see it every day. I minister to people and I see people’s lives turned around, from drug dealers to business owners, from crackheads to people who change their lives around. I’ve seen it firsthand. And so I know the power of God.

“I know God’s heart in terms of wanting us to be in a relationship with Him. So I’m saying, ‘I respect your answer, but I’m giving my own. I’m going to give another answer to the situation and to the problem.'”

Isaac is already an ordained minister and he has spoken about his faith often during his brief NBA career. He joined the Sports Spectrum Podcast most recently last October to discuss his growth as a follower of Christ during a trying rookie season and the strides he’s made on the court since.

With his church, JUMP Ministries Global Church, and Project Life Inc., Isaac is even helping to organize an event this November called Hold Up The Lights — a prayer march in Orlando designed to lift up the name of Jesus in the city. The event has an Instagram page to promote the event. It references 2 Chronicles 7:14.

“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” — 2 Chronicles 7:14

Isaac knows that even on the most mundane day of rehab, there is an opportunity to strengthen his damaged left knee, one day hoping to join his teammates again on an NBA floor. He is recognizing that each day also presents a new opportunity to see God’s goodness and share His love with the world He made.

“There’s things that I’m learning from this process that I didn’t know before,” Isaac told The Athletic. “It’s revealing another level of grit, another level of grind in me and another level of faith that I didn’t know I have. So God has His reasons, and no matter what happens, I trust Him. And I know I’m going to get back on the court and be better than I was when I left.”

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