Kuroko’s Basketball and Imitating Christ

Hi there, folks! I feel like I should say something to properly introduce myself in my first official post as a BtT writer. But formalities aren’t exactly my forte, so I’ll just dive in. 

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I’m a bit of a Kuroko’s Basketball fangirl. The show’s been on my mind almost constantly since the third season began airing. It’s prompted a lot of fist-pumping, squealing, and cheering—plus some convicting thoughts about the Christian walk. For example, Kise’s recent game against Haizaki has me thinking about imitation’s role in the Christian life.

— Spoiler warning for the third episode of Kurobas 3. —

First, a recap on this character: Kise Ryouta is a sports prodigy. He tried other sports before basketball, but he wasn’t challenged enough. His athletic ability, combined with his knack for imitation, allowed him to surpass teammates and rivals with ease. He finally started basketball partway through middle school, after he discovered how powerful the team was. Finally, a challenge!

Kise quickly joined the ranks of Teiko Middle School’s “Generation of Miracles,” but surpassing them would take a little longer. The rest of the team had developed personalized skills that matched their physiques and personalities. Kise wasn’t good enough to imitate their moves, let alone counter them.

Fastforward to the Winter Cup, Kise’s first year of high school. Kise is pitted against Haizaki, a nasty fellow who was kicked off the Teiko Middle School team just before Kise became a regular. Haizaki, too, is an imitator, but with a twist: he corrupts whatever skill he steals. This messes with his opponent’s rhythm, making it impossible for him to use the skill he used to call his own. Back in middle school, Kise could never beat him. Now, in high school, things look grim. Kise and the rest of the Kaijo team keep the gap from getting too wide, but Haizaki is dominating. Finally, in the last five minutes, Kise brings out the newest and most powerful weapons in his arsenal: skills he’s copied from the Generation of Miracles. He starts with Midoriama’s precise, high-arcing three-pointer. And he makes it from the other side of the half-court line. (Cue fangirling)

Kise can copy the Generation of Miracles. Okay, he's scary now. I don't even know how scary, because that pink aura there is Akashi,  and the only skill I've seen him use is his Alpha Dog commanding  aura, which is scary, but probably not imitable.
Kise can copy the Generation of Miracles. Okay, he’s scary now. I don’t even know how scary, because that pink aura there is Akashi, and the only special “skill” I’ve seen him use is his Alpha Dog control, which is scary, but probably not imitable.

Kise has a special talent for imitation. The characters only exaggerate a little when they call his improved skill “Perfect Copy.” But all basketball players start with some level of imitation. When I played basketball in fourth grade, the coach showed me how to hold the ball in order to shoot. I positioned my thumbs in a “T” shape like he showed me, copied the way he bent his knees, and started to make baskets. I picked up dribbling and defense the same way. I couldn’t copy as well as Kise, but I avoided making a complete fool of myself on the court (during practice, at least).

Other spheres of life require imitation, too. Most notably, we’re called to follow Jesus’ example and the example of his followers. There are a lot of lessons about imitation that Kuroko’s Basketball can help illustrate. I’ll go into more of them in a later post. But God has already used this line of thought to confront and redirect me. So I’ll start with that.

For over a week, I’ve been bursting with happiness. First, Kuroko’s Basketball is airing again, and I have embraced the fangirl in me. Second, some writing prompts encouraged me to celebrate the miracles and joys of life, both big and small. Third, I’ve joined Beneath the Tangles, and I’m really excited about that. My great mood was starting to weird me out, actually.

But on Wednesday, a frustrating homework assignment started to tear at my joy. I planned to sit in the library for an hour or so, finish my lab report, and attend to some much-needed shopping before making a chicken dinner. Instead, I stayed in the library for four hours, bought a Lunchable for dinner, and abandoned my shopping plans as the sun faded from the window behind me. I emailed the assignment to my professor over two hours late, then walked in the dark to my car.

I started to think through my plans: get gas, respond to comments, blog... blog! I remembered this post, which I started last Sunday, and the importance of imitation. Okay, I thought, turning off campus. What did Jesus do when things got busy, when there were a lot of demands on his time and energy?

He slipped away from the crowds to pray. When there were a lot of people around, when others might have thought he didn’t have time to be alone, he made time to go one-on-one with the Father. Got it. 

When I finally plopped onto my bed, I started writing a journal entry. Then I began writing a prayer. To my surprise, the prayer opened with thanks and with forward-thinking. God was already loosening frustration’s hold.

In the first chapter of The Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis wrote, “Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus Christ.” The best way I know to study Jesus’ life is to read the Gospels. So I turned to Mark 1. This chapter includes the time Jesus went off to pray by himself—the very event I’d thought about in the car.

Let me quote a few verses, because they stand out to me as imitable. For context, Jesus just had a long day (and night!) of healing a bazillion people, who are apparently more interested in his miracles than his preaching.

And in the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there. And Simon and his companions hunted for Him; and they found Him, and said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” And He said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, in order that I may preach there also; for that is what I came out for.” (Mark 1:35-38, NASB)

People want Jesus to come back and keep healing, and their need is real. But when Simon (later renamed Peter) and company come to retrieve him, Jesus basically says, “Nope. My priority is to preach right now. That’s the whole reason I’m in Galilee. So let’s get back on the road.” He keeps healing as he goes, but his priority is to get the good news out: the kingdom of God is at hand. Change is on its way, and people need to get with the program, believe this good news, and repent.

Amidst the business, the pressure, the crowds, Jesus did two things: he prayed alone, and he stayed focused on his mission. I’m pretty sure that the order of presentation was important.

So what does this have to do with me and this post? I’ve already followed Jesus’ example with the slipping away to pray. That’s how I got this far. But the mission… now that is an important reminder, and a timely one as I prepare for transitions in blogging.

All too often, I forget that I have a purpose in life, a mission I should focus on: “to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” What does that mean? Most of all, it means remembering that life is about God and not me (nor is it about Kuroko, for that matter).  It means pointing others to God’s glory, including through my writing.

There. I’ve learned two skills through imitation:

1. Taking time to pray when things get busy.

2. Keeping my focus on God and his mission.

Have I achieved a Kise-like “Perfect Copy”? Uh, no. Focus isn’t exactly my forte. I’m terrible at taking the time to just pray and focus on God. Frequent short prayers throughout the day? Fine. But extended prayer? Bible study? Shifting gears to meditation mode (or study mode… or just about any mode that I’m not currently in) is difficult. Overall focus on God? I’m a bit distractible, and to be brutally honest, I seek my own glory in my writing all too often… yeah, I’m a long way from “Perfect Copy.”

Thankfully, God doesn’t leave me to train on my own. I have his Word, professors and friends to sharpen me, and anime that inspires me (yes, I credit God with anything good that is found in anime). I expect to reflect on other aspects of this topic often throughout the next couple weeks. I’ve noted several prompts from Kuroko’s Basketball for future writings. Kise, Kuroko, and the gang provide great examples of why imitation is important and how to go about it.

Annalyn

Annalyn, known to the offline world as Alexis, is a lifelong lover of fiction. Growing up, books kept her attention, but anime stole center stage halfway through high school. If she isn't consuming, writing, editing, or thinking about some form of story... she's probably distracted. But she might be dancing to K-pop, working, or hanging out with family.

6 thoughts on “Kuroko’s Basketball and Imitating Christ

  1. That’s such a faithful response, Annalyn. In my life, I know I should pray more more more – in fact, that’s my only resolution this year! And I also know that prayer affects me like no other thing, and always in a good way. But I’m all too often unfaithful in imitating Christ in this fashion.

    Thank you for the reminder! It’s encouraging and motivating!

  2. Imitating those unrivaled players was the most difficult task Kise had ever set before himself, but it was also the only one that could lead his life in a new and fulfilling direction.

    1. Good point! Actually, you’ve touched on a direction of this topic that I hope to explore, if I have time. Kise doesn’t settle for moves that are easy to copy. He reaches higher, higher than many thought was possible. And that is another imitable aspect of his gameplay (not to mention part of why I love watching him!).

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