By Bill Sorrell
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist
Home for the Holidays has consistently been the basketball court.
The three sons and daughter of Shawn and Toya Holiday have followed their hoop dreams: Justin Holiday plays for the New York Knicks, Jrue Holiday for the New Orleans Pelicans, Aaron Holiday for UCLA. Lauren Holiday, who was coached by her mother at Campbell Hall High School in Studio City, California, played on the UCLA women’s team.
“We all love to play,” said Justin Holiday, a shooting guard/small forward. “That makes it easy for us to work and get better in our jobs.”
But there is something more that runs in the family, he said.
“The biggest thing that has helped me is we are a family that all believes.
“Without my faith, I wouldn’t be here,” said Justin Holiday, whose parents led him to Christ. “I know that this is God’s plan for me, what He made me to do because of how He has taken care of me; how He has blessed me even in the hard times I have gone through and made me the person I am today. It goes 100 percent to the Lord.”
Nicknamed “The Fireman” at the University of Washington in Seattle for his ability to “cool-off” hot-shooting opponents with his defensive intensity and rebounding, Justin Holiday was named to the Pac-10 Defensive Team as a junior in 2010 and Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year his senior season in 2011. He averaged 10.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals as a senior and was co-captain with now Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas.
Undrafted in 2011, he played overseas for Okapi Aalstar of Belgium, winning the Belgium Cup championship in 2012. He also playes for Szolnoki Olaj in Hungary. That team won the Hungarian League and Hungarian Cup in 2014.
“Overseas I was still persevering. Being in a foreign area, an uncomfortable area, I was still able to display God in my life and improve as a basketball player,” he said.
He played in the Developmental League (Idaho, Santa Cruz), on NBA Summer League teams Cleveland, Philadelphia, Golden State and was waived by Cleveland, Portland, Philadelphia and Utah.
“The list goes on but I am here,” said Justin Holiday, who signed with Golden State for the 2014–15 season. In the NBA finals against Cleveland, he averaged 4.3 points and 1.2 rebounds.
The 2015–16 season was spent with the Atlanta Hawks and the Chicago Bulls, being traded in February 2016.
Justin Holiday was traded to the Knicks in June 2016. During the 2016–17 season he averaged 7.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists. The Knicks finished 31–51. He has a career average 5.7 points, 2 rebounds and 1.1 assists.
Knicks forward Marshall Plumlee said Justin Holiday’s maturity is evident “by watching the way he plays, the way he handles himself on a daily basis. He is the kind of guy that has worked his way up and has done it the right way. He hasn’t taken shortcuts. He knows what it is like to be part of a winning team and he brings that every day. I know every moment that I have taken to learn from Justin and listen to him, I have benefitted from it. He is a good example.”
Justin Holiday, 28, wants to encourage others with his story.
“My way to the NBA wasn’t simple and I had to rely on the Lord. It is allowing yourself to grow in the hard times, trying to understand what God wants you to learn in those times, to lean on Him in those times,” he said. “I think the biggest way I have let my faith grow, every time I have gotten out of a hard time or tough situation, I am that many more steps farther (ahead).”
“It is a big platform. That is the reason why I am here. God has changed my life. That is the reason why I have gone through all I have gone through.”
Justin Holiday has not allowed NBA pressure to get to him. “I have learned about myself, I don’t back down from anything. I know I have a God who loves me and every situation I’m in no matter if it’s not working out or going great, I don’t ever give up. I know I can’t ever give up on anything. This is what God has blessed me with.
“He is the reason why I am able to live with joy because first of all I know that this life is just temporary. I have a place that I am going to be able to live forever with Him and He loves me and I am thankful.”