Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Bucks guard Jrue Holiday: 'God's blessed me' with opportunity to play in NBA Finals

The Milwaukee Bucks paid a steep price to acquire Jrue Holiday in the offseason with the hope that he could help bring the team’s postseason disappointments to an end. As it turns out, Holiday’s arrival has become even more important than the Bucks could’ve envisioned.

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The 12-year NBA veteran nearly posted a triple-double in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks, finishing with 27 points, nine assists, nine rebounds and four steals as Milwaukee advanced to the NBA Finals without two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

In the two games Antetokounmpo missed through injury, Holiday produced 52 points, 22 assists and 15 rebounds to help lead the Bucks to their first finals appearance since 1974.

“I’ve been so blessed over the last couple years with everything going on, to be able to land in a spot like this to fulfill my dream,” Holiday said after Saturday’s game. “God’s blessed me and put me in a position just to go to the finals.”

The 31-year-old’s faced his share of challenges along the way to realizing his dream, most notably the tumor found in his wife Lauren’s brain while she was pregnant with the couple’s first child in 2016. Lauren, a World Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist with the U.S. women’s soccer team, had successful surgery to remove the tumor a month after giving birth.

Holiday — who plays with “What Would Jesus Do” wristbands — said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in 2018 that the couple grew closer through Lauren’s health scare and relied heavily on prayer.

“At that point, I felt like, because myself and my wife are both believers, we did that together and that was something that we could do together, which was just pray together every night before we go to sleep,” he said.

Though he attended church regularly growing up, Holiday points to becoming a professional athlete as the time he made his faith his own.

“It was a different life for me, and I was trying to look for something to kind of hold on to and pick me up,” he said last year in an interview with Rusty George, the lead pastor of Real Life Church.

Drafted 17th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers after just one year at UCLA, Holiday was one of the youngest players in the NBA and struggled at times with the transition. He said in the interview with George that his mom would call him every morning and the two would read a Bible verse together, usually from Psalms.

Holiday made his only All-Star team in 2013 with the 76ers, and was traded to New Orleans the following offseason. He did not change teams again until coming to Milwaukee.

His brothers, Justin and Aaron, have since joined him in the league and both are currently members of the Indiana Pacers. In 2019, they became the first trio of brothers to log minutes in the same NBA game.

Though Holiday and his three siblings all went on to have successful athletic careers, their parents always emphasized faith and family come first, in that order.

“Making Christ a priority is huge, because without Him, I wouldn’t be here. None of us would,” Jrue told George.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals tips off in Phoenix on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET. It will be broadcast on ABC.

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