After a two-year hiatus from basketball, Jesus Christ returned to the NBA last night, playing with his former team, the Atlanta Hawks. Christ, who quit the sport in May 1994 to focus on spreading His message of universal love and compassion, made His triumphant return last night against the Bulls, just in time for Easter Sunday.
The return of Christ, who averaged 18.2 points and 7.3 assists per game during his 10-year NBA career, has excited success-hungry Hawks fans, who are calling Him the team's "Savior."
Said Atlanta resident and devout Christian Jeff Voorhees, "Jesus is Lord."
Christ's decision to return to the Hawks surprised insiders, considering for years the Nazareth native had been crucified by the Atlanta press. Ever since He was drafted third overall out of Texas A&M in 1986, Christ has been labeled "too passive and forgiving" to ever lead the Hawks to the promised land. Christ, however, has decided to turn the other cheek.
"I forgive Atlanta Journal- Constitution sportswriter Stan Sheridan," Christ said. "He knows not what he writes."
The closest Christ came to signing with another team came in December, when He spent 40 days and 40 nights in the desert with Detroit Pistons coach Doug Collins. After consulting His father, God, Christ decided to turn down the Pistons' offer of 30 gold pieces.
"Get thee behind me, Coach Collins," Christ reportedly said.
Though some say the media led Christ to quit basketball, many contend He quit after being betrayed by teammate Kevin Willis during a 1994 Celtics-Hawks playoff game. With three seconds left and the Hawks trailing by one, Christ was wide open underneath the basket for an easy lay-up. Instead of passing to the Christ, Willis took a wild shot from three-point range, missing the net completely. After the game, a visibly upset Christ stretched out His arms and said, "Kevin Willis, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Despite the controversies, Hawks teammates and personnel are excited to have Christ back.
Forward Stacey Augmon, just one of the many Hawks players who claims to have a personal relationship with Christ, said, "He's taught me so much, like how to love your enemies as yourself, to pray for those who hurt you, and when to pass up the three in favor of a higher percentage shot."
Fans also eagerly await the return of Christ's "Ascension Dunk," a crowd favorite. In the patented dunk, Christ leaps His less-than-league-average 24-inch vertical, then miraculously ascends toward Heaven, floating in mid-air just long enough to stuff the ball. An accompanying angelic choir momentarily stuns His defenders as the ball comes crashing down on their heads. The move wowed audiences at NBA All-Star Slam-N-Jam dunk competitions for two years in a row.
A three-time NBA All-Star, Christ impressed team doctors during a brief, closed-door workout Friday, in which He displayed His still-sharp shooting skills, dribbling ability and overwhelming love for all mankind.
Team doctors also noted that in contrast to most players who take layoffs, Christ's body fat is just 3 percent, even lower than when He was playing. Christ attributed the low figure to His recent food-free, 2,000-year out-of-body reign in His Father's Kingdom.
Meanwhile, the league made a special ruling regarding Christ's crown of thorns, deciding that He may wear the headpiece only so long as He does not "unwittingly anoint a player with the forgiving power of His Holy Blood."
Though Hawks fans seem certain Christ can help the team, some NBA experts question whether Jesus is the Answer.
"The healing power of His Holy Love may get the Hawks into the playoffs, but they can't ride it alone to the championship," NBA commentator Hubie Brown said. "What they really need is a solid power forward who can fill the lane, someone like Cliff Robinson."
Some analysts think that Christ's injuries, along with His added age, may slow Him down.
"Christ isn't going to be 32 forever, and, quite frankly, He hasn't been the same since the Romans drove holes into His hands and feet," NBA analyst and former coach Chuck Daly said. "A painful stigmata injury is difficult to overcome, and it may affect His shooting touch. Still, I'm pretty confident He can rise again."