Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Trae Young leads Hawks to Eastern Conference Finals with faith on display

In the moment, Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young didn’t care that he was in the midst of his worst shooting night of the playoffs. It was Game 7, and his team was leading the Philadelphia 76ers by three with 2:30 remaining.

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Young launched a 29-footer that hit nothing but the net. The Hawks led the rest of the way, setting up a meeting with the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals.

“The confidence is still there. The confidence is going to remain the same,” Young told ESPN after the game. “Everybody is happy we made it to the Eastern Conference Finals but we’re not satisfied. It’s great that we’re here, but we still got some games left.”

The former University of Oklahoma star finished Sunday’s game with 21 points and 10 assists, with 10 of those points coming in the fourth quarter. The double-double was his fifth of the series and seventh of the playoffs. He averaged 29 points, 10.9 assists and 1.7 steals against Philadelphia.

The upset of the top-seeded 76ers is the most recent development in the stunning turnaround for Young and the Hawks. They were 14-20 when Nate McMillan became the team’s interim head coach following the firing of Lloyd Pierce on March 1.

Atlanta won its first eight games under McMillan and ended up with a 41-31 record, securing the No. 5 seed in the East. After dispatching the New York Knicks in five games and prevailing on the road in Game 7 against the 76ers, the Hawks are now four wins away from the NBA Finals.

Now in his third NBA season, the 22-year-old Young has established himself as one of the league’s premier point guards. He made his first All-Star team in 2020, earning a starting spot on Team Giannis and collecting 10 points and 10 assists in 16 minutes.

Young participated in the All-Star weekend festivities as a rookie but didn’t want to be at the All-Star Game itself until he was actually playing in it.

“My dad asked me if I wanted to go [to the 2019 All-Star Game], and I told him I didn’t want to go,” he said in a video for ESPN. “I wanted to wait to experience that first time ever going to an All-Star Game on Sunday when I was in it. So for me to be able to go [in 2020] and participate, it’s God’s plan.”

Never shy about his faith, Young attended Victory Family Church in Norman, Oklahoma, growing up. He continued going with his family even as he became one of the most well-known players in college basketball during his one season with the Sooners.

Young has continued attending church since he was acquired by the Hawks in a draft-day trade, once running into Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence at a church in Atlanta.

He also gives glory to God and references his faith often on social media.

The Eastern Conference Finals get underway in Milwaukee on Wednesday night. Game 1 tips off at 8:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on TNT.

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