Index Magazine: Mark Price gives God the glory for his success in basketball, and everything else


ATLANTA — If one ponders the successes achieved by Mark Price as a collegiate and professional basketball player, you might suspect that he would gloat or revel in those accomplishments. On the contrary, Jeremiah 9: 24 seems to characterize this former Georgia Tech and Cleveland Cavalier point guard - “Let him who boasts, boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

Price is a devout Christian who is a member of First Baptist Church of Atlanta, sings in the choir, and is unashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 While the Oklahoma native may be reticent about reciting his amazing exploits in basketball arenas near and far, his credentials are well documented in sports journals, news reports, the Internet, and YouTube depictions of his games.

 At Georgia Tech, Price was First Team All-ACC for three years and Second Team All-American in 1985 and Third Team All-American in 1986. He also led the Yellow Jackets to become the ACC Champions and was the MVP of the ACC Tournament.

 As a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, he was a four-time NBA All-Star, and NBA 3-point shot champ in 1993 and 1994. He was on the 1994 Dream Team II that won the Gold Medal; and is the all-time leader in playoff free throw percentage (.944).

Price’s jersey – number 25 – has been retired by his high school in Enid Oklahoma, by Georgia Tech, and by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Price takes great satisfaction in having helped Georgia Tech accomplish something that most basketball fans thought could never be done. When Price went to GT the school was a newcomer to the Atlantic Coast Conference and the basketball program was on life-support. However, within two years the school was preseason No. 1.

He recalled, “Winning the ACC Championship was a great joy, because we had to beat Coach Dean Smith’s UNC Tarheels three times to accomplish that feat. The same thing happened at Cleveland with the Cavaliers. When I arrived in Cleveland the professional basketball team was a joke and nicknamed ‘the Cadavers.’ However, it was immensely gratifying to be on the roster with the players who made the Cavaliers a perennial playoff team.”

In reviewing his childhood, Price explained, “Our family was always in church. When the church doors were open, we were there. I was baptized as a child and thought I was a Christian. I feared God and enjoyed going to church. However, at age 17 I began to realize that it was not enough to just be a good kid.

“I was having success in basketball, but I began to realize that Jesus was not on the throne of my life. I sang Gospel music with my family, but I knew something was missing. So, in a revival meeting, I gave the Lord my heart, my life, my everything, because of what He gave to me. He died on the cross for my sins, so now I have the hope of eternal life through Him.

 “My dad coached basketball in college and in the NBA. He is the one who taught me how to shoot a basketball and how to put the ball in the basket. If you do that, you can play. My first goal was to play in college and get a basketball scholarship. The only other alternative was to work my way through college and that didn’t appeal to me, so I worked hard at playing basketball.

“I kept waiting for that growth spurt, but it never came. In high school I was 5’ 11” and weighed 155 lbs. After my junior year in high school, I had no one seeking to get me in their college.

“All my life I played with a bit of a grudge, because everyone seemed to think I was too small. They said, ‘You are not fast enough. You are not tall enough. You can’t do this, or you can’t do that.’ So, I would always strive to prove everyone wrong, but once I gave my heart to Jesus, my whole purpose changed, because now my goal was to give God the glory in all things.

“I said, ‘God You are on the throne of my life; and if I don’t ever get to play another game of basketball that is okay, because I want to be where you want me to be, and I want to be used by You whatever that is.”

After Mark made that resolve he got a call from a man in Oklahoma City who was recruiting basketball players in Oklahoma to play for the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), an organization that provides teens a way to compete against the best athletes in the nation. Price joined with some of the best players in Oklahoma to go play in an AAU tournament in Florida.

The Oklahoma team won and got to play in the championship game in New York City, and that is where his basketball skills attracted the attention of college coaches. Bobby Cremins, the relatively new basketball coach at Georgia Tech, liked what he saw in Price’s basketball prowess.

Price explained, “Someone from Georgia Tech visited me at my home on 17 different occasions during my senior year. A lot of people were shocked and thought I was crazy when I signed with Georgia Tech, but I felt like that is where God wanted me to go.”

 God began orchestrating things in Mark Price’s life that can only be explained by a divine intervention.

 After Price’s senior year in high school, he went to Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center in Oklahoma for a time of spiritual refreshment. Dr. Nelson Price, who was then pastor of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, was the guest preacher for the week and made a favorable impression on Mark, who said, “Dr. Price not only was the preacher for the week, but he spent time mingling with the students that were in attendance.

“I told him that I was going to be playing basketball at Georgia Tech and he said he would like to make himself available to encourage and mentor me. I was eager to go to Roswell Street to church each Sunday morning, but Coach Cremins had basketball practice every Sunday morning. I asked him if he would be willing to change practice to Sunday afternoon so I could attend church and he agreed.”

While at Georgia Tech Mark met Laura Marbut, the love of his life. After his graduation and being drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Mark and Laura planned a Christmas Eve wedding. The logistics of this blessed event were challenging. The Cavaliers played an away game with the Chicago Bulls on December 23, 1986. When Mark boarded the plane to return to Cleveland the tight schedule made it necessary for him to be dressed for the wedding thus prompting his teammates to taunt and badger him about his attire.

 Nelson Price flew to Cleveland on that snowy Christmas Eve morning to perform the ceremony, pronounced Mark and Laura as husband and wife, and boarded another plane to get back to Marietta for his Christmas Eve service.

Dr. Price declared, “I can’t say enough good things about Mark and Laura. They have lived their faith consistently. I once heard someone ask Mark if God was number one in his life. Mark responded, ‘No, He is not number one; He is everything.’”

The former NBA star grew up loving Southern Gospel Music and had a quartet called Mark Price and Lifeline. He recalled that his group was asked to give a concert after a Cleveland Cavaliers home game with the New Jersey Nets. During the game, one of the referees made a call that favored Price and the home team. Bill Fitch, the Nets coach said to the referee, “What kind of call was that? You must have gotten free tickets to the concert after the game.”

 While having great success on the basketball court, Mark Price has often prayed that all the accolades would not puff him up. He explained, “My primary purpose is to know Him and make Him known.

“When I was at Georgia Tech I saw the movie, ‘Chariots of Fire.’ In that movie, Eric Liddell, the Olympic runner, said, ‘I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.’ That is the way I felt about my years as a basketball player.

 “I have also focused on trying to be a good Christian husband and dad. I want to use my influence to lead without fear or hesitation. I know that in Ephesians 3:20-21 Paul tells us that ‘God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.’ Whatever we think we can do, God can do more. So, He must always get the glory.”

The Prices have four adult children: Brittany, who lives in Asheville, N.C., Caroline who gave her parents a grandchild, Lily, three months ago, Hudson, who lives in Raleigh, and Josh, who will be married on June 1.