Michael Porter Jr.: Being a Christian in the NBA
Michael Porter Jr.: Hey, my name is Michael Porter Jr. and I choose Truth Over Tribe.
Keith Simon: Are you tired of tribalism?
Speaker 3: I think a lot of what the left supports is Satanic.
Speaker 4: The only time religious freedom is invoked, is in the name of bigotry and discrimination.
Keith Simon: Are you exhausted by the culture war?
Donald Trump: If they don't like it here, they can leave.
Hillary Clinton: You could put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.
Keith Simon: Are you suspicious of those who say Jesus endorses their political party?
Speaker 7: Is it possible to be a good Christian and also be a member of the Republican party? And the answer is absolutely not.
Speaker 9: From certainly a biblical standpoint, Christians could not vote Democratic.
Keith Simon: We trust the Lamb, not the donkey or the elephant.
Keith Simon: This is the podcast that's too liberal for conservatives, and too conservative for liberals.
Patrick Miller: I'm Patrick Miller.
Keith Simon: And I'm Keith Simon. And we choose Truth Over Tribe. Do you?
Keith Simon: If you got a lot of money, would it change you? I mean, would a lot of money change your character, your values, your faith? I'm sure you hope it wouldn't change you, but if I'm honest, I'm not sure how I'd respond if I signed a$ 207 million contract like Michael Porter Jr. recently signed with the Denver Nuggets. In my conversation with Mike, you'll hear him open up for the first time about that contract, and share how he's trying to keep things in perspective. But first we start with a story behind a brand new Andy Mineo song. It's called MPJ Freestyle. Michael Porter, welcome to Truth Over Tribe.
Michael Porter Jr.: Man, I appreciate you having me on, man.
Keith Simon: Okay so I'm not going to pretend to be a big hip hop, rap guy, but I do like to listen to some. And one of the guys I've listened to in the past is Andy Mineo, and it turns out that he's just released a song about you. Is that right?
Michael Porter Jr.: Yeah, yeah, MPJ Freestyle, yeah.
Keith Simon: I listened to it. Do you know him? What's the story behind that?
Michael Porter Jr.: Yeah, so Andy Mineo and Lecrae, we kind of go back a little bit. When was the first time I met them? I think it was when I got in the NBA, I went out to Atlanta and he used to be into basketball, things like that. So I reached out and went by the studio, met all those guys at 116, which is their label. So ever since then, I've been close with Lecrae and close with Andy and I just keep in touch with them all the time.
Keith Simon: So did you know that this song was going to come out, MPJ Freestyle?
Michael Porter Jr.: Yeah, so I actually had Lecrae on my podcast and we were just talking. He was like, man, you're going to have to hear what Andy came out with. I was like, what do you mean? He was like, he came out with a song and your name is in the title. I was like, no ways. Then I hit up Andy and he sent it to me before it was released, and I was like, oh, that's wild. So it was pretty exciting, it was cool. Because I'd grown up listening to those dudes, and really have idolized them a little bit for a long time.
Keith Simon: Yeah, it's got to be cool to meet guys that you used to listen to and that kind of stuff. But when I was watching it on YouTube, it seemed like he was maybe sending a message to you or something in that song. Is that how you took it?
Michael Porter Jr.: I mean, music is all about wordplay and how they do it. But now for Andy, what he said in the song, he'll text me that. So I think it was just that...
Keith Simon: He'll text you" keep your pants on?"
Michael Porter Jr.: Yeah. He'll just text me like, bro, hope you're doing good. I know there's struggles. If you need help with anything, let me know because I can relate to some of these things. So I mean, me and Andy have a good relationship. He'll text me and check on me, make sure I'm doing good, and he always asks me what I'm struggling with. And so that's kind of when I tell him, man, this is a temptation, whatever it may be. And so he kind of knows what I deal with, in a way, so.
Keith Simon: Uh huh.
Michael Porter Jr.: So I think he wrote that song and that line just came to his head, but that wasn't going to be the name of the song, I don't think. And then he just came up with it and thought it'd just be a cool name, so that's kind of how it came about.
Keith Simon: It's pretty cool that you've got friends in your life who will check in on you and who know what it's like to try to live this life, right?
Michael Porter Jr.: No doubt. I think one of the biggest things for me, and anyone trying to live right, is to have people around you that kind of push you, checks and balances. And I think that working in the church, there're some of my friends who do some of the Campus Ministries, it's different for them because they get to be around pretty solid people all the time that are talking about God, thinking about God.
Keith Simon: Right.
Michael Porter Jr.: In my life, it's like almost everything I'm around is so anti- God and so cultural and worldly that if I didn't have the people around that kind of check on me and make sure I'm staying okay, it'd be really, really hard to stay on track. So I'm really blessed with great people in my life.
Keith Simon: Yeah, it seems like, even the friends I hang out with, which they're not the NBA or anything like that, but it seems like the more successful you get in life, the fewer people that will say hard things to you because people want something from you or they're hoping you can do something for them.
Michael Porter Jr.: Yeah.
Keith Simon: And so it's easy to get a bunch of people around you who just tell you what you want to hear.
Michael Porter Jr.: No doubt.
Keith Simon: It takes a lot of courage to say to somebody, hey, I got to call you out on this.
Michael Porter Jr.: Right.
Keith Simon: You can't keep doing this. Do you have people like that?
Michael Porter Jr.: Yeah, yeah. No doubt. You hit it on the head. It happened when I first got in the League. People kind of will step on eggshells to make sure that they stay on your good side so maybe they might be able to get something from you in the future. But even after I signed my contract, then I've already seen it get way worse just in terms of people that I didn't really talk to in the past, kind of coming back around. But like you said, one thing that I know is I have a good intuition with that stuff. You got to have people around you that... And this is the close people in my life. They all have no problem with telling me, you're tripping. Like, are you good?
Keith Simon: Uh huh.
Michael Porter Jr.: Because I see these things in your life. But you do get a lot of people that come around and are just dancing around the real issues, all those type of things, so that's really hard to navigate. But I am personally blessed with not a bunch of yes men, you know what I mean? They'll tell me when I'm messing up.
Keith Simon: Well, that's important for anybody. I mean, it's important in my life and I can't even imagine after you sign a big contract that, like you said, it gets worse. Are there guys in the League that you hang out with that share your faith, either on your team or on other teams, who really know specifically the challenges you face? Do you interact with other Christians in the League, or are the most of the times the people you're interacting with about faith issues outside of basketball?
Michael Porter Jr.: I would say the majority is definitely outside, but I have been blessed enough to have one really solid teammate that kind of is on the same path as me and same outlook as me on those things. That's Marcus Howard. So we challenge each other. He lived with me for a period of time last year and we really challenge each other. We go to church together a lot. But all my teammates are really good dudes, and it's just fun to be able to talk about these things. It's not like they're closed off to them. They just might not have grown up the same as me, have the same, necessarily the same views. And then there's a couple guys around the League at different teams so if I go to a different city, I might link up with them. One of those, Jonathan Isaac, really, really good dude. He's getting into some stuff with the church as far as being a pastor, along with basketball, and then Steph Curry is another one. There's a lot of guys who get painted this picture in the NBA, and then you're like, are they really like that though? And when you're in the NBA, you see, oh, they're actually not like they're portrayed to the media. They're not really that good of a dude, or whatever. Steph Curry is one of those guys who... Everything that it appears he stands for, he really is for. So he's another big brother to me. We worked out some this off season. He's someone that checks in on me, and things like that.
Keith Simon: So you talked about growing up in the family you did and maybe other guys haven't been exposed to some of the same things that you have. And you seem to me, from my perspective, you grew up in two different worlds. There's this world where you have this tight family who loves Jesus, part of a church, homeschooled for a while, right? I can't imagine homeschooling you. I bet you were a pain. Is that true? Were you a good homeschool student or a bad one?
Michael Porter Jr.: I was actually really, really a good homeschool student. Then when I went to public school, that's when it got iffy.
Keith Simon: Okay. Was your mom the primary teacher, your dad, or who?
Michael Porter Jr.: She was, but we did the homeschool. So she would be there if we needed questions, but our curriculum, it was like, we kind of were self- taught, like the books and the online curriculum.
Keith Simon: Okay.
Michael Porter Jr.: But I was good at homeschool because it was on my own time. I could do a subject, stop, do another subject.
Keith Simon: So you're in this tight- knit family, love Jesus, homeschool. But then because of basketball, you were exposed to so much more than that, right?
Michael Porter Jr.: Yeah.
Keith Simon: I mean, even from a young age you had opportunity to travel and meet different kinds of people. And now of course, in the League and kind of a celebrity, has it been hard to live in those two worlds? How do those two worlds come together, because they seem really different to me?
Michael Porter Jr.: Yeah. It is very hard. It started at a young age, but it's only gotten progressively worse. I was homeschooled, so I was, in a way sheltered. But then you got all your basketball friends who are going to public school so they're already introduced to these things at a very young age and that's kind of crazy to see. You go into this world, this very secular world, where you're getting judged for every move you make. It's all about money, fame, jewelry, clothes, just the whole culture where I'm in the middle of it. But then the game is over with and you go home and it's like, who are you when you're at home? And I think a lot of guys struggle with going back and forth. And it is a struggle going from that worldly side back to the grounded side. Like, okay, who am I? And that's why a lot of guys get lost in the sauce. And it can be a struggle, and I think that's another reason why you just got to have people in your life who still treat you like I was when I was 15, 16 years old and just see me as Michael, you know what I mean?
Keith Simon: Well, it seems like growing up in that world where you've got, like we said, the homeschooling, faith and then the celebrity, basketball, that it would be easy to develop almost two lives.
Michael Porter Jr.: Mm hmm(affirmative).
Keith Simon: The public life and the private life, or the, I'm around this group of people, act one way and around a different group of people, act a different way. And then you're in high school, or college. It's just hard, no matter what, at that stage of life, much less when you're exposed to all the opportunities that you are. So I would think that it would be easy, I'm just talking about myself, I don't know if this is true for you, to have this faith in Christ that's private, but in public be different. When did you start saying, hey, no, I want to follow Jesus publicly and privately. Or is that still something you're wrestling with?
Michael Porter Jr.: I definitely used to, and I think a lot of kids go through this. They're very insecure with, not only their faith, but who they are. So around certain friends, like around my basketball friends who might not necessarily believe what I believe, I'm kind of acting this way, and against my Christian friends, I'm really liking that, and it gets taxing. So for me, it got to a point where, this happened in college. Finally, for the first time in my life, I was allowed to do whatever I wanted to do. I could be who I wanted to be. And it doesn't take long to realize, for me at least, okay, all this stuff, it's cool, but it's going to leave me empty. I tried to learn from other people that, the celebrities I knew, that even once they get something they want the next thing. So that's when, I think in college, finally realized, okay, I want to choose Jesus and God, I want to be known as that. I'm not going to be perfect...
Keith Simon: Right.
Michael Porter Jr.: ...but that's what I'm going to choose. And I think that's another thing people struggle with is, once they choose Jesus, they think they have to be perfect and hold up a certain image, even if they're really struggling. So one thing I've tried to do is, I'm a Christian and those things, but when I am struggling, I'm not going to not share it. I'm not going to not talk about it on my podcast. I'm not going to act like I have it all together because I think that's when, if something does come up and you are struggling, then people are just like, yo, who is this guy? He was just living a double life. I think that transparency is a key to growth, for sure.
Keith Simon: People hold others to a higher standard than they hold themselves, and so you're trying to figure out your life just like all of us are. But because you're doing it in the spotlight, everything that you do, good or bad, gets exposed. I wouldn't want everything I do to be on television or to have the microphone in my face when I blow it. So you're right. Being transparent, being humble, being in process, that's important. You're talking about your podcast, Curious Mike, and I want to come back to that in a second. But I was watching this episode of you and Lecrae, and you guys were talking about maybe like losing your religion and finding your faith, I think is how you guys were talking about it? What's that mean? Help us understand what that means.
Michael Porter Jr.: So I think you get to a point where it's like, so why did I follow Jesus? Every other religion, you have to perform to be saved. And you're always living kind of in fear.
Keith Simon: Mm hmm(affirmative).
Michael Porter Jr.: I chose Christianity because it's the only one where it's, no, someone did it for me. Now because of that, I get to love him and appreciate him and he'll change me. It's the only one, like I think Lecrae put it, every other religion, you're reaching up.
Keith Simon: Mm hmm(affirmative).
Michael Porter Jr.: And then in Christianity, Jesus is reaching down and pulling you up. So I think like losing your religion and finding your faith is just developing that relationship with God. It's not all about me. It's not all about my willpower and my self- discipline. It's more about my relationship and that will eventually change me if I stay abiding in God and in his word. Because for me, like I just know myself. I'm so self- disciplined and I have a lot of willpower, but even that, in the lifestyle I live, that will not take you very far at all. So that's kind of what made me switch my thinking around, and it really takes a lot of the pressure off of yourself. You put your problems on God and he helps you through them. So that was what it was for me, just because this lifestyle is tough, man. And I know a lot, like you said earlier, I'm in the spotlight. So a lot of people get to judge what I do, but they don't realize that if they were given the same exact position with all this money, it doesn't matter how good of a person you think you are. A lot of people, if they were given that opportunity, they might switch up just as fast as a lot of these guys. Do you know what I mean?
Keith Simon: A hundred percent agree with that. I've heard that if you really want to test somebody and see what they're made of, you give them power.
Michael Porter Jr.: Yeah.
Keith Simon: Like some people think what you do is you see the real person in adversity. And of course we do learn a lot about ourselves and other people during tough times. But I think you might even learn more about yourself when you have power, success, fame. How do you handle that? And there's a lot of people that can judge you and throw stones or other people in the spotlight, not just you of course.
Michael Porter Jr.: Yeah.
Keith Simon: But if I was in that situation, I have no idea how I would react. I almost think God protected me from having that, right?
Michael Porter Jr.: Yeah. I know a pastor out here named Sean Johnson. And he told me because of his struggles and what he struggles with, he was invited to a lot of these conferences that could have made him the Judah Smiths or the Mike Todds of the world.
Keith Simon: Right.
Michael Porter Jr.: But he knew himself. And he's like, man, if I get that, what will I really become? I mean, even Lecrae, he was just out here in Denver, we went to dinner a couple nights ago. And he was like, man, even though all my music is about faith, once I had that number one selling album, I'd won the Grammy, he was like, man, there was a period in my life where I was really thinking I was the man and I was changing. Like, I'd go to these parties with these other artists, or whatever. And it was like, even me, who my whole image and what I do is all about God, it doesn't matter. It can get to you. So it's a daily walk. It's just about winning the day. And that's another thing that I've learned is, you don't want to set these huge, far- out goals because that's, again, putting pressure on yourself. It's about the daily walk, getting closer with God day by day.
Keith Simon: Yeah. I love that, how you say that. So when you think about your success, your professional success, your financial success, all of that, how do you think about that in terms of what you attribute to hard work and good choices versus what you attribute to luck? How would you say that, if you were breaking it down? Because I've been asking a lot of guys this question.
Michael Porter Jr.: That's a good question.
Keith Simon: Not just you. I asked the Mizzou Football coaches, I lead a Bible study with them and asked them the other day. I've asked business people, lots of people, men and women, all ages. If you had to say, if I think of my success a hundred percent, how much of that 100% would I say is hard work and good choices, and how much of that is luck?
Michael Porter Jr.: You know what's so crazy, I bet I'll give you the highest number that anyone's given so far. But I would say it's 90% luck and 10% hard work, because I say this to say, I've done certain gene tests and things like that with some of my doctors and people. And there's actually genes that we have that make us more prone to want to do hard work and more prone to self- motivation. So that told me, even the hard work that I do, I'm programmed this way by God. There's some people that are more naturally lazy and you're like, man, why can't you just get it together? Just find self- discipline. There's actually genes that we're given that we can't control, and certain neural types that are more just wanting to work hard. So I have a gene that made me want to work hard. I was given 6'10", I was given athletic abilities. So that's why I say, it's probably 90% luck and God- given, and 10% hard work. And that's why, that also takes a lot of pressure off of it too. Because like, man, I love this, but God gave it to me. He's going to take me as far as he wants me to go because a lot of is luck. A lot of it.
Keith Simon: I love that answer because when I was younger, I thought that any success I had was because I worked hard. The older I've gotten, the more I realize that I've been blessed beyond measure. That every good gift I have is from God. I mean, I didn't choose my parents, I didn't choose the century I grew up, I didn't choose the country I grew up in. There's a lot of blessings that I've had that I had no control over. But what I found is, is that the more successful people are, the more they attribute their success to themselves. And I love hearing you saying, no, even my desire to work hard, that's a gift from God.
Michael Porter Jr.: No doubt. It's really crazy.
Keith Simon: Okay, but then Jesus says, to who much is given, much is required. So you just acknowledged, God's given you a lot, right? He's given you a great family, he's given you athletic talent, he's given you financial success, all that stuff. And you've been given a lot, so God's going to hold you accountable to use that wisely. What are you doing to make sure that you use your talents and your gifts, all that God's blessed you with, in a way that honors God and promotes his kingdom instead of Michael's kingdom?
Michael Porter Jr.: Yeah, I think that's another thing that I have learned. That you can easily drift from perspectives of self- glorification to honoring God. I think you can drift through those perspectives, even throughout the day. There's so many things that distract us, that bring us to, comparison or wanting to be better than this person or this person. And a lot of it is social media. There's so many distractions. But anyways, something I found is, even if it's a few times throughout the day, it's okay to reground yourself and reprioritize and realign yourself with God's view of things because no one, all the time, is perfectly always trying to glorify God. We're selfish in nature. But I think for me, like you said, who's given a lot, much is expected. Like I just said, a lot of it is luck, but at the same time, God gives gifts to a lot of people that don't utilize them. That happens all the time. And I just think that we all have the same purpose, to help bring more people to God, help make heaven more crowded. But finding your niche in this world, I think a lot of it can come down to, what did God bless you with? Mine was just my height, athleticism, it kind of made sense it was basketball. So I'm just trying to figure out how I can use my platform to not just be a basketball player that lives selfishly with my money, spending it all on myself. I want to do more than that. I want to start a podcast, I want to give to these churches, I want to find charities I can give to, to make a real lasting impact.
Keith Simon: Yeah. I love that. So the NBA is known for being a league that cares a lot about social justice. A lot of players in the League care about social justice. And I think the League and players, they do a lot of really good things. As Christians, we care about justice, right? We want to see God's kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. And we think justice is a God issue. It's an important issue. It's not just a social issue, it's a Jesus issue. So, that takes me back, you probably know where I'm going to go with this, but that takes me back to when George Floyd was killed. And you tweeted, I think if I got it right, you tweeted that this is a horrible thing. What happened there was absolutely horrible and you were sad about it. But you also talked about how we need to forgive and pray for everybody involved. And to be honest, I thought it was a good perspective. I thought that was a Christian perspective. Dr. King talked about, hate is not the way. And I thought you were just trying to echo that and say that we can't go down this road of hate, we need to go down a road of love.
Michael Porter Jr.: Yeah.
Keith Simon: But it seemed like you were misunderstood with all of that. Did you feel like maybe people didn't quite get what you were trying to say?
Michael Porter Jr.: Yeah, you know what's funny about that? And God gave me supernatural peace even in the midst of the controversy throughout that, because I remember tweeting it and I was kind of worried a little bit before I tweeted it. But I was like, man, someone just told me about their Socrates, Jesus. A lot of people who we look at now is, oh, they lived right. In their time of the day they were crucified, they were slandered for their anti- cultural beliefs. So I knew what I was saying was anti- cultural but what's funny about the tweet is, we were just talking about social media and stuff, lots of tweets were coming in. Man, I love that perspective, that's amazing. And I think one famous person maybe said something like, bro, what? What are you talking about? And then after that, that person tweeted it. Then you get all these other people bandwagoning the tweet. I wouldn't go back and change what I said. I think the only thing about that was the timing. When I tweeted that, I think it was to my followers. I didn't know it was going to go as viral as it did. I feel like a lot of people, because it was so soon, weren't ready to accept that and you have to be sensitive to that. But at the end of the day, they that's the right perspective. I mean, when someone gets up in court and they're looking at the person that maybe murdered their husband or something, and then they forgive them in court. And I've seen that a couple times, videos have gone viral with people forgiving people, as hard as that would be and as... I probably wouldn't do that, that's probably not how I would react. That is something that I think is way more powerful and way more moving than just the natural inclination to fight hate with hate, because that's not going to bring us anywhere. But yeah, it was interesting to see people's reaction to that. I think the only thing I might change was the timing of the tweet because it was so soon.
Keith Simon: Yeah, that sounds wise. I mean there's a time for everything and maybe that wasn't the time for it, but I thought it was the right message. And you're talking about people forgiving those who murdered. I think of the Emmanuel Church shooting and that guy, Dylann Roof, who killed those people in South Carolina.
Michael Porter Jr.: Mm hmm(affirmative).
Keith Simon: And then they stood in a courtroom, several of them, and said, we forgive you for killing the people that we love. And that was a picture of the gospel. Here they're in a church, in a Bible study, following Jesus and they're forgiving the one who wronged them.
Michael Porter Jr.: Mm.
Keith Simon: And I think sometimes people just don't understand the way of Jesus, right? They want to take the way of revenge or the way of hatred. And when they see the way of Jesus, they're kind of shocked by it.
Michael Porter Jr.: No doubt.
Keith Simon: If you're like me and you leave each episode with a lot to think about and wishing you could go just a little bit deeper, you should subscribe to the Truth Over Tribe newsletter. Not only do we explore the topic further, but we also interact with people who disagree with us, and tell you about upcoming episodes. Just go to choosetruthovertribe.com and sign up for the newsletter there. So we've talked a little bit about this podcast you're doing, Curious Mike. Where'd that come from? Where are you hoping to take that?
Michael Porter Jr.: Yeah, we talked earlier about trying to live humble and not act like we have it all figured out ourselves. I think you guys do that a great job at The Crossing, because I think a lot of preachers even can get caught up because they might act like they're holier than thou and then something might come out where they're not perfect either, you know? So I think the name Curious Mike came from that, by saying, curious, I think that's kind of a humble approach. There's been times, like the George Floyd thing or talking about the COVID stuff, where people have misunderstood what I was saying, whatever. Or just thought that I think that my way is the right way. I think coming at it from Curious Mike, I'm just curious. I'm not saying I have it all figured out, but we should be able to have these conversations without it turning into a battle. Going back and forth, that's not going to bring us anywhere. So I tried to create a space where we could have open conversation about deeper things than just basketball. A lot of people think basketball players should just play their sport. We're getting paid a lot of money, just play your sport and be quiet, instead of every thing else, you're not an expert. I think all of us as humans should be able to have these tough conversations and not just kill each other. And we're not in that age, especially with the social media, when people can have anonymous pages. They wouldn't say it to your face, but I think it's cool when you can sit down. I think that's why podcasts are just blowing up because it's like prolonged conversation of some real stuff that people can't take out of context, because it's longer. And you can explain what you were saying and they can see where you're coming from.
Keith Simon: Man, preach it. And that's exactly what we're trying to do with Truth Over Tribe is, we're trying to have conversations where we can respect the other side, learn from them. We don't feel like we have to be right all the time. We don't have to demonize the other side, people who disagree with us. But we can enter into dialogue and relationship and learn from one another. And we can work toward the common good, even with people we disagree with on some things. It's okay if we don't all agree. And of course we want to put Jesus above all our other loyalties. So who are some of people you want to have on? What kind of people are you hoping to have on this? Is it, you said you had Lecrae on it, so...
Michael Porter Jr.: Yeah.
Keith Simon: Is it music people? Is it NBA people?
Michael Porter Jr.: No. I've come out with eight episodes. They vary so much. Man, I want to have more people on that differ from me.
Keith Simon: Uh huh.
Michael Porter Jr.: I want to have like some Muslims on there, some atheists, whoever it might be. Some people who are pro COVID vaccine, people that are anti- vaccine. Some doctors who are on both sides of the spectrum. Some black people and why they feel like, what's going and their view of things. Then some white people that think the other way. I think that those things would be very powerful. You got to be careful with how you navigate those conversations, as you know. And one thing I respect about The Crossing, one of the biggest things I ever respected, I remember this day, is when you guys had the homosexual man there and you guys were just talking to him about how do you integrate Jesus with that? And there was people that disagreed, there was people that agreed, but the fact that you guys had the conversation to me was the most important thing. A lot of churches are not willing to do that because they'll lose members, left and right, you know what I mean? So for me, that's something I've never been afraid of, is disagreeing with someone. I just think that having the conversation, coming from that humble perspective, is the most important thing.
Keith Simon: Which is why it's called Curious Mike, right? You don't have to have all the answers. You just want to be in conversation, learning things from people. So you've brought up the vaccine and COVID and all of that. And last year you, I think it was on Snapchat, you kind of went on, I don't know, I'd call it a little rant. Maybe that's not the right word, but about the vaccine and all. It was kind of interesting because now looking back on it, you said some stuff, probably just speculating, but it kind of came true, right? You talked about, you might have to have a vaccine to travel, and stuff like that. And it turns out that you do have to. So when you look back on all of that, I'm not asking you to relive it, but what did you learn from that? Was that one of the first times you've stuck your foot into a little controversial topic and it kind of blew up, or...? What did you just learn from it?
Michael Porter Jr.: And that's another thing. A lot of times, there's also a silent majority of people that may agree with you. They're just not going to be the ones that are outspoken. I think that the people that generally are outspoken are the ones that are going with the norm, and what the public generally accepts. And that's another thing. If I could take that back, Snapchat is not the place to be having that conversation. I was doing a Q and A, someone asked me the question, and that's a touchy subject because there's a lot of people that have been affected by COVID, have family members that have died from COVID. And people took that as, oh, he's saying COVID isn't real. He's a conspiracy theorist. I had COVID right before I went to the Bubble, the NBA Bubble. So that was never where I was coming from. But yeah, that definitely was another touchy subject. But that was one of the first times I think, where I've kind of said something. That and the George Floyd thing that we already touched on, were some of the things that I've kind of said, where I knew what I was saying was going against the norm. But I've just always had a sense of, man, I'm not going to just be quiet and just be a sheep and just say what everyone else is saying so I get accepted. That's not going to make any difference. I want to say my truth, or what I think is true. It may not be true, it's just what I think.
Keith Simon: Yeah. Sounds like you got a lot of courage and you're willing to take on tough topics. But it sounds like you also got a dose of humility to say, I might be wrong. I got a lot to learn.
Michael Porter Jr.: Right.
Keith Simon: So when I became a Christian, I was in college and the reason I became a Christian, I didn't grow up really in a Christian home, never really went to church much. So I am in college and I had what a lot of people wanted. And I looked at guys in the fraternity house I was in, who had everything that guys wanted, who were younger than them. And they looked miserable, right? I mean, they had girls they were dating, they had academics, they had good jobs lined up, they were important people on campus. But I knew them and I knew they were not happy people. And when I looked at that, I thought, am I going to keep going down this road of getting things that don't make me happy? Or am I going to rethink what I'm living for? And that's what led me to eventually become a Christian and start following Jesus. You've got what I would guess people would love to have. You've got the life everybody wants. Are you finding that all of that stuff is what makes you happy? Are you happier now that you've got a$ 207 million contract? Are you happier now?
Michael Porter Jr.: That's actually crazy you bring that up because I think I learned from a very young age, by looking at the people before me. It doesn't matter what you have, you're always going to want more.
Keith Simon: Mm.
Michael Porter Jr.: But there's countless examples, I'll give you one. Your dream is always to get to the NBA. Then you get to the NBA and you don't play. And you're like, man, I just want to play and make a difference. Then you start playing. Then it's like, man, I just want to be a starter. Then you start. Then you say, man, I just want to be in All- Star. Once you get that, you're going to want to be... So it's like, that's one example. I actually just wrote a letter, my mental strength coach, which is something that has benefited me so much, had me write a letter and I wasn't going to share this publicly, but if there's anywhere to do it, it's for the church podcast. But he had me write a letter to the 207 contract, and he was like, write a letter and write what you think. It's all about, are you good for me or are you bad for me? Do people see you when they see me, or do they see me when they see me? From girls to whatever, maybe like, are you looking at me for me? Do you really love me? Or is it about the 207? So it's like, as much as people want what others have and they want to keep leveling up, it's never enough. It doesn't matter if you're the most famous person in the world. I know Justin Bieber. I know his pastor, Judah Smith. You can be the most famous person in the world, but also be the most miserable person in the world. There's a poem that also my mental strength guy shared with me. It was about someone who was trying to find how someone could be happy who is homeless. Someone can be happy who is in jail. Someone can be happy who has a disease. But then you can also go and find a rich person who's unhappy or a famous person who's unhappy. How can that be? And it just went back to, man, the perspective, the godly perspective, living through gratitude for what you do have. And that's one of those things, you can drift back and forth between, I think throughout the day, throughout your life. You can drift to wanting more things, thinking that'll make you happy. You got to refocus yourself. Okay, but when I got what I wanted, when I got what I prayed for, did I want more or did it satisfy me? It's crazy.
Keith Simon: So what makes you happy now? Are you happy? And when you are happy, what is it that makes you happy?
Michael Porter Jr.: Yeah, I would say I'm most happiest when I'm at peace in my relationship with God. And I feel like I am moving toward the direction I want to be as a man. It's not about, signing the 207, it was exciting for a day. Everyone around me is like, bro, if I'd signed that, I'd be happy forever. No, no you wouldn't because that comes with a whole nother set of problems. It was exciting for a day. And I'm so blessed by that and I thank God every day, for the change I'll be able to make for him, but it's not going to change me. It's not going to change my lifestyle. I'm at peace and I'm happy when I am, it's a day by day walk. But when I start my day off in the word, I get my good quiet time and I move throughout my day in that. Some of our thorns, man, some of the things that hold us down the most are the things that keep us close to God. So I get so mad at myself with some of the stuff that I struggle with constantly. But that's some of the stuff that continually draws me back to God as well. So I think Paul talks about that in scripture. He's like, why can't you take this away from me?
Keith Simon: We end up doing the things we don't want to do. And we don't do the things we do want to do. We have these constant struggles, but they remind us, we need Christ's grace. Like you said earlier, we can't perform because we know we're all broken. We need to depend on Christ's grace. It seems like you're in a tough situation because on one hand you want to be thankful for this 207. You don't want to blow it off like it's no big deal. But on the other hand you don't want to act like it's everything in life because you know it's not.
Michael Porter Jr.: Yeah.
Keith Simon: So it's hard to navigate that. People might think you're unappreciative or that you're not telling the truth, that it's going to change your life. But you know it's not going to make you a happy person.
Michael Porter Jr.: Yeah. I told my mom and my dad and a lot of people before me, I've never been very attached to money. I love what money can do. It can help facilitate some happiness. You can make some cool moments with it.
Keith Simon: Right.
Michael Porter Jr.: Do some cool things. But that does not make you happy. But I am so grateful, like I said, for what it'll be able to do. It's something I dreamed of, being able to take care of my family, take care of the people around me, things like that. But man, peace, prolonged peace is something that only God can bring. I did a Curious Mike episode with a brain doctor and he talked a lot about, there's something called dopamine in your brain. A lot of NBA players or artists, or whoever may be, they end up the most depressed because they get these big hits of dopamine. You go to a game, a sold out game, or you go to the club or you have all these women. But then like after that you have a big crash. And the brain doctor was just talking about little drips of dopamine, whether that's spending time with family, spending time with God, spending time reading. Whatever it is, that's a way more sustainable life. And I feel like that's a way more peaceful life to live. So that's how I feel I will sustain peace. It's just... I know I'm off topic, but yeah, that was something else that I feel like is important.
Keith Simon: No, I think it's exactly on the right topic. So it's one of these weird things where if you haven't arrived, you think that if you get that next thing, it'll make you happy. And then you get it and you realize it doesn't. And so you're in a unique position that a lot of us aren't in. We wish we had your life. You're saying, hey guys, I've got it. And let me tell you that what makes me happy is available to you now. It's following Jesus. It's becoming the right kind of person. It's spending time with people who are helping you. It's serving other people. Those things are available to everybody, not just people who are famous.
Michael Porter Jr.: And I think sometimes we're silly because we don't look at the people before us. We don't look at the Michael Jacksons who ended up towards the end of his life, very unhappy or the Justin Biebers who had everything anyone could possibly want and then ended up coming back to Jesus. And I've had the pleasure of seeing these situations up close, and seeing some of these artists and people up close, who really aren't happy. But one thing I did when I was young was I really tried to pay attention to that because I wanted to see the people before me. And I feel like that's not something a lot of people do. We don't listen to people that have everything, but still aren't happy. And I feel like that could get us to realize that and chase something else quicker than just going your whole life, trying to get more money, whatever, and then seeing that it won't make you happy.
Keith Simon: What I love about what you're saying is that, you and I, we have the same struggles. My struggles aren't any different than yours, and yours aren't any different than mine. And that is to believe that real life is found in Jesus, not outside of Jesus. That our struggle is to believe God's promises, to believe he's faithful. And that's true of us regardless of where we are in life. Hey, thanks Mike. I really appreciate it. Thanks for the time. I know you got a lot going on.
Michael Porter Jr.: Yeah, this has been awesome, man. I appreciate you. I appreciate the questions. They were good for me too.
Keith Simon: You're a good dude. Thanks. I wish I was as wise as you were when I was your age.
Michael Porter Jr.: No, man. We're all still learning. Thank you, doc.
Keith Simon: Thanks for listening. If you found this podcast helpful, make sure to subscribe and leave a review.
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In this episode, Denver Nuggets forward, Michael Porter Jr., joins our host, Keith Simon, to discuss what it's like to be a Christian NBA player and the importance of keeping your character, faith, and values strong in secular environments. Hear MPJ share what it was like going from a sheltered homeschool upbringing to playing college basketball to joining the NBA. You'll also hear MPJ explain what it means to lose your religion and find your faith and how much he attributes his athletic accomplishments to hard work vs. good luck. Listen now!
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