By Phalisha Jackson (Originally Published April 30, 2015)
He once shared the court with Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird among others, but Kelvin Ransey traded his life as an NBA player in his prime to become a minister.
He felt a stronger calling than his love for the court, recalls the Oxford, Miss. minister, who walked away from the game at 27.
“I had two dreams when I was a young person. I had a dream that I was going to play in the NBA, and I had a dream that I was preaching,” Ransey said.
“In both dreams I was successful. And I loved both of them. I loved my church and I loved basketball. And I think that was the lord giving me kind of a foreshadow of what was going to happen.”
Ransey is the pastor at Spirit of Excellence Church, located just a few miles east of Oxford. He is the product of inner city Toledo, Ohio, where he learned to play basketball watching his older brothers. He displayed talent early, dribbling the ball effortlessly behind his back as a child. About that time he began to feel he was destined for greatness.
Drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1980 and immediately traded to the Portland Trailblazers, Ransey was in the running for Rookie of the Year, but lost to Darrell Griffith.
The hardest thing about leaving the NBA wasn’t walking away from his salary, he recalls, but rather his love for the game he’d been playing since age 6. Friends questioned why he would leave an NBA salary to preach.
“The year that the Lord called me to preach, I was still playing. There was some skepticism like ‘like does he really know what he is talking about’ and things like that. But I was able to convince people through my ministry that hey, this is real.”
“When I first started, I was a basketball player who preached. Now, I am a preacher who used to play basketball. So the reputation switched because of my faithfulness to God,” explains Ransey. “I never could put the two dreams together until I realized that God put me in the NBA as a platform to spread his Gospel.”
He played in the NBA for six years and three different teams, his last, the New Jersey Nets in 1986. It was with the Nets that he made a name for himself.
“I took a team that was 8-20 and turned it around. We went to the playoffs that year,” Ransey said. His last NBA season he spent doing both of the things he loved, playing hard and praying hard.
Transitioning to Mississippi life from the big cities where he once played was easy. He spent his summers in Mississippi with his grandmother while his parents worked in Ohio.
Like the seemingly humble player for God that he is, he was even more humble during his ball playing days. “The crazy thing was that people would wait after a game just to get your autograph. You’d have to go in and shower and get yourself together. Then you come out and see all these people waiting for you to sign an autograph. It makes a child’s day for you to just write your name. I always signed autographs because these people paid our salaries,” he recalls.
He’s been a preacher for 30 years now and takes pride in the lives that he has changed from the pulpit and in the community.
“I’m ministering to people who have problems. I want to see people understand that God can handle those issues. And I have had the wonderful privilege of seeing multiple lives changed.”