LaPhonso Ellis, Miami Heat
by Doug Greengard

LaPhonso Ellis

His name, LaPhonso, means "Great Warrior." LaPhonso Ellis, the six-foot, eight-inch forward for the Miami Heat, is appropriately titled. In his 11th National Basketball Association season, Ellis has faced, and fought back from many challenges. Selected by Denver with the fifth overall pick in the 1992 draft, the former University of Notre Dame standout made an immediate impact as he began his pro career. Named to the All-Rookie Team, Ellis emerged as one of the league's top young stars. But in 1994, while averaging nearly 22 points per game, Ellis saw his season came to a halt because of a stress fracture in his right knee. Other injuries followed: Knee surgery that was required in 1996, a ruptured Achilles tendon in 1997 and a hernia in 1999. Through it all, Ellis has missed substantial playing time, yet has remained determined to overcome.

"I continue to be obedient, burying my nose in His word," said Ellis. "I delight myself in His word day in and day out, encouraging my teammates and just trusting that when God does give me the opportunity to go out and play I can play well and give Him the praise and glory."

Ellis has not always enjoyed the encouragement he gets from God's Word. In the summer following his second NBA season, feeling a deep need to have a personal relationship with God, Ellis finally surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. Prior to then, he was un-churched. "To have a relationship with Him over the past nine years and to see the fruit that's been born in my life, the evidence of His existence in my life, has been incredible," added Ellis. "He's so awesome and He's done so many good things in my life."

As a basketball player, Ellis has gained the respect of his peers. His Christ-like attitude has had even a bigger impact than one of his powerful slam dunks. "The one thing I ask God is to help me be consistent; to be a person that, whatever I preach and speak in public is who I am in private," said Ellis. "It's the mentality that comes from wanting to give God our absolute best. Should we fall, knowing that He gives us the grace and mercy and He will pick us up."

Ellis continues to take his game, and especially, his faith in Christ, to a level far higher than the rim.

Doug Greengard is the chaplain for the New Orleans Saints Football Team and the host/producer of the Christian Sports Minute, a radio feature airing on nearly 350 stations in North America. To get a copy of Heroes of Faith, a book containing 24 stories of well-known sports figures, send $10 to Greengard Family Ministries, P.O. Box 113013, Metairie, LA 70011-3013. Visit the Website at

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