April 6, 2018

‘God is the reason’: Pacers star soars through life with a joy and passion that drives his game, his faith

Victor Oladipo celebrates an Indiana Pacers victory with his arms wide open—the same approach he has toward his relationship with God. (Photo courtesy of Pacers Sports & Entertainment)

Victor Oladipo celebrates an Indiana Pacers victory with his arms wide open—the same approach he has toward his relationship with God. (Photo courtesy of Pacers Sports & Entertainment)

By John Shaughnessy

Victor Oladipo can ignite a basketball crowd with his passion—an intensity that has already made him a fan favorite in his first year of playing for the Indiana Pacers.

The 25-year-old only son of two Nigerian immigrants is also known for a relentless work ethic that has powered him to become an All-Star in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the first time this year.

Yet if you want to see the toughness and intensity dissolve from the face of the former Indiana University All-American, just mention his love of singing, including the times when he and his mother served as cantors in the Catholic church their family attended when he was growing up.

His eyes glow with joy, and a quick smile bursts across his face as he remembers those days.

That softness continues as he talks about his relationship with God, the importance of his Catholic faith in his life, and his admiration for his sister who became deaf after an illness when she was 6.

It’s also evident when he recalls the most memorable part of his first All-Star game experience—having his father, who has rarely seen him play in high school, college and the pros, be there to watch him in that crowning moment.

Oladipo talked about all those topics during a recent interview with The Criterion.
 

Q. Overall, how would you describe your relationship with God and the place he has in your life?

A. “I think I have a close relationship with God. I think a lot of people know that, and a lot of people who know me know that my faith means a lot to me. He knows I’m not perfect—no man is—but he knows at the end of the day that I love him as much as he loves me. Well, he probably loves me way more than I even love myself.

“It’s just an amazing feeling because he’s blessed me abundantly. I appreciate it, and I continue to try to treat others the way I want to be treated. And love my enemies and everything that he tells me to do. I try to live out my life as a God‑fearing man, and let everybody know that God is the reason why I accomplish everything I accomplish and the reason why I’m here.”
 

Q. Talk about the role that your Catholic faith has played in your life—and the way you try to live your life and your faith.

A. “My Catholic faith has done a lot for me. I’ve been going to church and studying the Catholic faith since as early as I can remember. It just helps me get away and be able to talk to God and have a one-on-one with him that I may not be able to have elsewhere.

“The Catholic Church is like a get‑away for me. Somewhere I can go and just be at peace. It’s done a great job of just helping me realize that, through tough times, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
 

Q. You’re known for your joy in singing. And you and your mother have both been cantors in church. How much do you enjoy that as an outlet for your faith?

A. “I love singing. I’ve been singing since I was a little kid in church. It’s just great, man. There’s nothing like a great song, a great Church song. It’s influenced not only my Church life, but my life in general. I feel there’s a song for everything. And I just try to bring that joy to whatever it is I do.”

Q. You’re known for your tremendous work ethic, your focus and your humility. Who are the major influences in your life who have led you to embrace those qualities?

A. “My mom, my sisters, my dad. That’s where it all started for me—in my household and how I was raised. That’s why I’m the man I am today.”
 

Q. Both your parents are originally from Nigeria. How has that background shaped your life?

A. “It’s been good. They showed me how to work hard. They were both Nigerian immigrants. They came over here 32 years ago, and they had to work hard in order to get whatever they wanted. And they instilled that work ethic in me. And that’s where it comes from.”
 

Q. You have a close relationship with your three sisters, including your sister Kendra who became deaf when she was 6 after an illness. Talk about your relationship with her and the influence she has had on you.

A. “We have a very positive relationship. She can call me, text me and talk to me about anything. And I can do the same thing with her. She has been through a lot in her lifetime. And just seeing her and talking to her and being around her just motivates me to work even harder—because she got through it. She got through a tough time. I can get through anything just watching what she did.”
 

Q. You’ve embraced being a part of the Indiana Pacers, and your passion has shined through when you say, “This is my city!” And the fans and the community have embraced you. Talk about what that connection means to you—and why you have embraced it so passionately.

A. “It means a lot to me. It’s kind of where it all turned around for me here in Indiana. Playing at Indiana University and coming back here and playing for these people in this city has been nothing short of a blessing. It’s been amazing. They’ve done a great job of just welcoming me, and I’ve embraced it. I’m just taking it one day at a time. I’ve got to continue to keep getting better so I keep representing them well.”
 

Q. When you returned to Bloomington for an Indiana University basketball game earlier this year, you received another warm welcome there. What did it mean to you to have that experience?

A. “It was an amazing experience, an amazing feeling. Something that I always wanted to do, and luckily I had the opportunity to do so. It was something I’ll always cherish and I’ll always remember.”
 

Q. What was the best part of the All‑Star experience for you?

A. “It was fun. It was a great time. I think the best part about it was just being able to experience it with my family and friends. It’s something that I’ll always remember and look forward to keep doing for the rest of my career.”
 

Q. Your father was part of that experience. What did that mean to you?

A. “It meant a lot to see him there. We have a special relationship now. It was great to see him there physically and being able to give him a hug after the game and to see how proud he was of me. It was just an amazing feeling. Words can’t really describe how great it was.”
 

Q. How would you describe your overall approach to life?

A. “That’s a good question. I think the biggest approach for me is, I’m always on a mission, I guess you would say, to be great—and to show everybody that God is the reason why I’m chasing greatness. At the end of the day, I feel as though this is what I’m supposed to be doing. God blessed me with this ability not only to impact people around me, but the people in the world as well. And that’s what I’m trying to do with this game.

“I’m just trying to show my belief and my faith in the game I play in. I play for an audience of one every night I go out there and play. I just got to continue to keep getting better. The sky’s the limit for me, but I just take one day at a time.” †

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