Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Defensive star Jrue Holiday follows up NBA championship with gold medal at Olympics

It’s been a busy few months for Jrue Holiday.

Within days of helping lead the Milwaukee Bucks to an NBA title on July 20, Holiday joined up with the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team for the Tokyo Olympics. A little more than two weeks later, the U.S. defeated France, 87-82, in the gold-medal game Friday night, extending its streak of consecutive gold medals to four.

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The 31-year-old Holiday was one of the standout performers in the final game, scoring 11 points while helping hold France’s Evan Fournier to 5-of-15 shooting and just two 3-pointers on nine attempts. Holiday reached double figures in scoring in all three elimination games, including an 11-point, eight-rebound, eight-assist outing in the semifinals against Australia.

His defensive work drew praise from his high-profile teammates.

“Jrue is one of the best defenders in our league, probably the best on-ball defender that the NBA has to offer,” Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green said Friday night. “Him coming to this team, and keeping his commitment, was one of the main reasons we’re sitting here as gold medalists.”

Holiday and Bucks teammate Khris Middleton became the fifth and sixth players to win an NBA championship and gold medal in the same year, joining Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. None of those others had to rush halfway around the world and join the team late like Holiday and Middleton, though.

The victory also means Holiday is one Olympic gold medal away from matching his wife, Lauren, who won two as a member of the U.S. women’s soccer team. He responded to her congratulatory tweet by joking that he was trying to make sure he would still be allowed in the house:

An offseason trade brought Holiday from New Orleans to Milwaukee, where he set new career-bests in field goal percentage (50.3) and 3-point percentage (39.2). Reaching the NBA postseason for the fifth time in his 12-year career, Holiday led all playoff participants with 199 assists and 38 steals. He averaged 17.3 points, 8.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds in the Bucks’ 23 postseason games.

The former UCLA Bruin was quick to praise God after realizing his dream of becoming an NBA champion.

“This is such a blessing, man. This is only God,” he said. “Like I said before, as a kid, you only dream of this moment, so to be able to actually do it, to see the confetti, to do it with my brothers, there’s nothing like it.”

Though Holiday was introduced to Christianity by his parents and grew up going to church, he feels his faith did not completely become his own until he reached the NBA. Moving from his native California to Philadelphia and stepping into a locker room of seasoned pros as a teenager led Holiday to rely on his relationship with God.

“I had to make, kind of, my own decisions and be able to kind of fend for myself, you know what I mean?” he said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in 2018. “Obviously, before that, I believed and everything, and I wouldn’t necessarily say that I didn’t have any struggles, but I do feel like it was … pretty easy.”

On Instagram, Holiday says in his bio, “We most bear resemblance to Christ, when we bear another’s burden,” which references Galatians 6:2.

After a busy few weeks, Holiday finally has some time to rest and get ready for the upcoming season as the Bucks attempt to defend their title.

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