Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Magic's Jonathan Isaac signs contract extension, says 'honoring Jesus' is always worth it

Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac only played 27 games as a rookie in 2017-18, and only 34 during the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season, as injuries cut short both of those seasons. But he’s shown plenty of promise and upside in his three years with Orlando, and the team rewarded him with a four-year, $80 million contract extension this week.

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He’ll miss the 2020-21 season as he recovers from tearing his ACL in August, an injury that came in just his second game since Jan. 1, when he hyperextended his left knee was expected to miss the rest of the 2019-20 season. Instead, he missed only the next 31 games before the season was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic. When the season resumed, Isaac was healthy but quickly went down with another injury.

Still, after averaging career-best numbers last season — 11.9 points, 47.0 percent shooting, 6.8 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 1.6 steals, 28.8 minutes — the Magic want the 23-year-old around for much longer. Isaac was drafted by Orlando out of Florida State with the No. 6 pick in 2017.

One of the most outspoken followers of Christ in the NBA, Isaac was quick to praise God on Tuesday after the announcement of the extension.

“No cliche or pretense, I give all the glory to me being in this position to Christ,” he wrote on Instagram. “He’s been so good to me in spite of me. Those who know me know I am who I am because because of Him. Honoring Jesus has been and will always be worth It. Beyond any check or promotion, knowing Him and living for Him has been the best decision of my life. He’s made me better in every way money cannot buy.

“To anyone reading this know that God is not just a God of the hills but also the valleys. He’s carried me through it all! And that’s why there’s no one I’d rather go through the valleys of life with!”

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 in October 2019 to discuss his growth as a follower of Christ during a trying rookie season and the strides he’s made on the court since.

Last month, with his church, JUMP Ministries Global Church, and Project Life Inc., Isaac helped organize an event called Hold Up The Lights — a prayer march in Orlando designed to lift up the name of Jesus in the city.

In late July, Isaac received much backlash and praise for his decision to stand during the national anthem and not wear a “Black Lives Matter” shirt prior to the Orlando’s first game in the NBA “bubble.” He referenced the Gospel numerous times during his postgame session with the media. One reporter asked what he felt like religion had to do with kneeling for the anthem to protest against racism and police brutality.

“Honestly, I don’t really see it as religion for myself. I see it as a relationship with God, whose Son died for our sins. I don’t think that kneeling or putting on a T-shirt, for me personally, is the answer. I feel like, for me, Black lives are supported through the Gospel. All lives are supported through the Gospel,” he said.

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