Summer 2024

With a culture of faith, Milwaukee Bucks seek another deep NBA playoff run

Fans who stick around a couple minutes after the final buzzer following Milwaukee Bucks’ games — such as during their ongoing first-round series with the Indiana Pacers in the NBA playoffs — may see a number of Bucks players huddle together near center court.

It won’t be a display of exemplary team unity. Neither will it be a gathering for basketball strategy. What it will be is a sweet moment of communion with God in prayer.

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Milwaukee’s postgame prayer circle began years ago and has since grown not only in the number of participants but also in the consciousness of NBA players and fans alike. Now, nearly the entire Bucks roster as well as players from opposing teams often participate. Earlier this month, New York Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley joined in.


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A post shared by Kenneth R Lock II (@kennethlockii)

The NFL has long had a tradition of players from the two competing teams, after a hard-fought game, kneeling together in a circle at the 50-yard line to honor God and seek His face in prayer. A similar tradition may just be developing in the NBA, beginning in Milwaukee.

As evidenced by the postgame prayer circle and other acts of faith, God has been at work in powerful ways in the hearts of players in the Bucks’ locker room, drawing them to Himself. Much of the growth can be traced back to the ministry of team chaplain Kenneth Lock. He’s often in the prayer circle (dressed in white in the image below), such as after Milwaukee’s loss last season in its first-round matchup with the Miami Heat.

Lock has been with the organization since 2019, ministering to players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, teaching them about Jesus, and even serving as the team barber. However, much of Lock’s time is spent as a senior pastor at Evolve Church in Milwaukee.

Lock joined the Sports Spectrum Podcast earlier this season to talk about his love for Christ, his heart for service, and his desire to see others grow in faith.

“We always pray at center court at the end of every game,” Lock said. “Win, lose or draw, we’ve bought into the practice of just saying, ‘God, thank You for the opportunity.'”

When so many seek to be around their favorite athletes for autographs, media requests, or even perceived personal importance, Lock knows God has called him to serve athletes and to proclaim to them the Good News of the Gospel.

“I just preach Jesus, I don’t know if there’s anything special (I do),” Lock said on the podcast about his positive influence in the locker room. “The guys trust me because of the relationship that I’ve built over the years being their barber.”

Lock continued later, “There’s so much pressure on these guys. Part of my job is to instruct and say, ‘Hey man, how do we find ways to glorify Christ? How do we find ways to look more like Jesus in every way?'”

Milwaukee’s Christ-following culture doesn’t end in the locker room, however; it extends to the front office and general manager Jon Horst.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity for people to understand that I have a faith,” Horst told WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee last offseason, “and that my family and I are Christians and that it’s a big part of our life.”

Horst describes prayer, Scripture and his local church as his foundations in life.

“Faith is awesome in that it can humble you when you need to be humbled. It can energize you and motivate you when you need to be motivated,” Horst said. “And it’s that ultimate trust and belief that it’s not really, you know, up to you.”

Horst, Lock and many Bucks players know that God is worthy to be praised, whether the team breezes through the playoffs for its second NBA Finals victory in four seasons or falters in the first round. Win or lose, He is infinitely greater than the outcome of any game.

>> Do you know Christ personally? Learn how you can commit your life to Him. <<

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