History is on the line this evening, for at least two reasons.
One: Kobe Bryant is retiring. The NBA’s third-leading scorer of all time will play the final game of his twenty-year career tonight. Bryant played in the All-Star Game eighteen times. He recently scored thirty-five points in a game, proving that he can still be one of the league’s most dominant players (For more, see Nick Pitts’s Resilence: The Career and Faith of Kobe Bryant).
Two: The Golden State Warriors are trying to win more games than any team in history. A victory tonight will be their seventy-third of the season, eclipsing the 1995–96 Chicago Bulls’ record that many thought would never be broken.
But be warned: If you’d like to attend either game, call your banker first.
These are easily the most expensive games of the NBA season. One fan paid $45,000 to buy two tickets to Bryant’s final game. The average list price to a ticket for the Warriors game is now $1,594.
Why do we want to be part of historic events?
I observed the same behavior at the Masters last week. It seemed to me that half the fans at the tournament were following Jordan Spieth. As he tried to become only the fourth player to win the tournament back-to-back, they wanted to be part of it.
I once lived in Atlanta, where the Braves’ Hank Aaron eclipsed Babe Ruth as baseball’s all-time home run hitter in 1974. I was told that if everyone who claimed they saw the homer was really in the stadium that day, its capacity would have exceeded two million.
There’s something about us that is attracted to the historic. We go out of our way to see historic sites such as Pearl Harbor and Westminster Abbey. We stand in long lines to meet history-making people. We are drawn to museums that display historic art or artifacts. When I visited Scotland recently, I wanted to know the age of a structure before visiting. The fact that it was built in 1128 didn’t change its appearance, but its historic significance somehow made it more important to me.
Sociologist Peter Berger wrote about “signals of transcendence”—experiences in life that point beyond us. I think our passion for the historic is one such “signal.” We want to be part of something greater than ourselves, an event or person whose legacy will outlive us. This is a God-given aptitude. As Augustine noted, God made us for himself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in him (The Confessions 1:1).
So go to tonight’s games if you can afford a ticket. Visit Pearl Harbor if you’re in Honolulu or Westminster Abbey if you’re in London. But know that the transcendence your soul seeks is not a place but a Person. He invites you to “remember the former things of old” but know that “I am God, and there is none like me” (Isaiah 46:8, 9).
Transcendence is as close as your next prayer.