Doc Rivers, Shaq, and Context

The Celtics are down 2-0 in their playoff series against the Miami Heat. Not great for Celtics fans. Shaq has been out for quite awhile now but may be coming back for Saturday’s game at the Garden. That is good news. Most people, myself included, think that this game will be the deciding factor of whether they stand a chance in the series or are done.

This morning, on sports talk radio, they played a clip of Doc Rivers (coach of the Boston Celtics) explaining something along the lines of “if we had a game Thursday he could have played but he didn’t practice because of his achilles or foot or whatever” (paraphrased) . The guys on the radio had this whole idea worked out about how Doc was getting frustrated with Shaq for being out so long and when he said the “achilles or foot or whatever” line he was intentionally dealing with the injury callously to imply that Shaq had to man up. That made a lot of sense to me since Shaq has been out so long and the team has been really struggling through this series.

Then a caller made an interesting observation: the clip does not ever reference WHO “he” is. We have no idea, based on the clip, who Doc is referring to, because we didn’t hear the question he was asked. The caller said that he thought the clip was referring to Paul Pierce who suffered a seemingly minor injury to his achilles. If Doc was referring to Pierce it would not have been viewed the same way because Pierce himself wasn’t taking the minor injury seriously.

Knowing who the “he” Doc was referring to made all the difference in understanding what he was saying, and incorrectly identifying the “he” would drastically change how we understood Doc’s comment. The difference between it being Pierce instead of Shaq took it from being a cheap shot about one guy’s toughness, to a passing observation on a minor injury. The question he was asked, the context of his comment, makes all the difference.

This is a very important rule for Christians, and not just Christians who enjoy watching the NBA. Christians go to the Bible for answers and understanding. The Bible is an ancient collection of even more ancient documents written over several millennia by many different people, living in many different cultures, writing in many different genres. I would say that understanding context is crucial to properly understanding the Bible.

Take this quote for example:

“Remember now, who [ever] perished being innocent? Or where were the upright [ever] cut off? Even as I have seen, Those who plow iniquity And sow trouble reap the same. By the blast of God they perish, And by the breath of His anger they are consumed.” – Job 4:7-9 NKJV

The gist of it? Bad things happen to bad people, not good people. Sounds like a great sermon. The problem? This was a quote from a guy named Eliphaz, who would later hear this from God for the above quote along with some other helpful advice:

And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me [what is] right, as My servant Job [has].” -Job 42:7 NKJV

So maybe that whole “bad things happen to bad people, not good people” thing might not be so sound after all. Thanks to Doc Rivers and the WEEI morning show for demonstrating this simple, yet important, lesson: context is vital!

Check out That verse may not mean what you think it means at Till He Comes for a great, non-NBA, explanation of this subject.


About Dan Allen

Just some guy trying to figure stuff out... View all posts by Dan Allen

6 responses to “Doc Rivers, Shaq, and Context

  • Alan Knox


    Context is so important and so often over looked! Ignoring context has drastically changed the way the church meets. Take “preaching” for example. In the NT, preaching was always in the context of proclaiming the gospel to unbelievers. Today, we take it out of context, and “preach” to the church. But, the church actually acquired the practiced from Greco-Roman culture (orators), and now continue to justify it by taking passages of Scripture out of context.


    • Dan Allen

      I think that is a great example of something mixed up because of a lack of understanding in the context. I think one of the most common lines of the Bible taken out of context would be “not forsaking the gathering of yourselves.”

  • Jeremy Myers

    Great example which shows how things can be taken from context. Thanks for posting this!

  • stephanie

    Love this post. GO CELTICS! šŸ™‚

  • Chris


    This is a great post, I constantly say, “context is king” when I’m teaching others. This is so vital, as you stated.


  • Dan Allen

    Glad you all enjoyed the post, I thought it was a perfect example to show why context is so vital.


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