Adrian Branch is a former NBA World Champion. During Adrian’s senior year in high school, he played in the McDonald’s High School All-American Game alongside future NBA greats Chris Mullen, Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing. It was a game of highlights for him, capped off by an unexpected MVP Award over Michael Jordan. Adrian then attended the University of Maryland, where he helped guide the Terrapins to the 1984 ACC Championship. Adrian finished his collegiate career as the second all-time leading scorer at the university. In 2004, Branch was honored at the ACC Tournament as an “ACC Legend.”
Drafted in the second round by the Chicago Bulls in 1985, Adrian eventually went on to win the NBA World Championship in 1987 with the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that included Hall of Famers Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy and Head Coach Pat Riley. Over the next several years, Adrian rounded off his professional basketball career in Spain, France, Monaco, Australia, Thailand, Philippines, Israel, Turkey and the Dominican Republic.
But Adrian found his true calling in ministry. Thanks to a teammate’s witness, Adrian became a believer in 1993, and three years later he signed on with Sportsworld Ministries, a Christian organization that sends former professional athletes to share their testimonies in schools, churches, prisons and foster homes. In the following five years, Adrian spoke to over a half-million young people and served with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Young Life, Youth for Christ, Youth With A Mission (YWAM), Athletes in Action (AIA) and Sports Power International.
In 2004, Adrian returned to the NBA with the league’s newest franchise, the Charlotte Bobcats, analyzing the action for the team as their Television Color Analyst. But he continues to speak to various ministries throughout the year.
It was 1993. I was in my second season playing professional basketball in Australia. On my team I had the joy of playing alongside one of my friends from back home in the Washington, DC area. My teammate, Michael Morrison, and I knew each other well, and were always talking about real life issues. There was something about Mike’s life that was different from the old days. I wanted to know what “IT” was that he possessed. As we talked about life he said to me, “Adrian, God isn’t impressed with your championship ring, PUT IT DOWN. God isn’t impressed that you’ve played for Prince Albert of Monaco PUT IT DOWN. God isn’t impressed that you’ve played with and against some of the worlds most rich and famous athletes PUT IT DOWN. The only way God will be impressed and pleased with you is to put your trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.”
Alone in my bedroom that night, that’s exactly what I did! I knelt down beside the bed and prayed a simple prayer with all my heart, asking Jesus to forgive me, save me and guide me. The next day, I was walking in the downtown area and saw a piece of crumpled paper on the sidewalk. My thought was to pick up this paper because I knew without looking at it there was scripture written on it. To my amazement, the paper read, Luke 14:33 (“If any of you doesn’t give everything he cannot be my disciple”).
As I continued to grow in my faith, my bible was like fire to me as I read it early each morning. I could sense my life was changing. The Lord was moving me in a whole new direction. God reveled evidence of his plan for me when I received a phone call from Bill Alexson, a man I had met during my years in the NBA. Bill was the chaplain for the Boston Celtics and had developed a unique ministry taking professional athletes to share their testimonies at sporting events. He told me about a ministry similar to his own that was seeking former athletes to share their faith in churches and schools. I realized this was my true calling in life.
Ever since February 1993, I now have the “IT” that I saw in Mike years ago. I know who I am is much more than a celebrated athlete. I smile when I look back from where God has brought me. Taking life one day at a time in faith truly assures me I am a “World Champion!”