Life's path surprises OKC Thunder's team chaplain

The Rev. Amos Byron Coleman laughs at the twists and turns in his life that lead him to be a chaplain for the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder.
by Bryan Painter Published: April 8, 2012

Inside a small church on Chicago's west side, music minister Marietta Coleman would sit her 5-year-old son, Amos Byron Coleman III, atop the piano.

She'd start playing.

“If they thought I was going to fall, one of the ladies in the choir would come and snatch me off the piano,” he said, with a hearty laugh.

So here we are. Easter 2012. What became of that child? Now 41, he is a pastor at a church in Oklahoma City, an adjunct professor at the University of Oklahoma and a chaplain for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Byron Coleman likes to laugh at life's twists and turns he never saw coming, especially the basketball role.

“I never thought I would be doing this. I never thought I would be the chaplain for the Thunder,” the husband and father of two said. “Being a chaplain for an NBA team was never on my radar, not in my plans ... but I love it.”

From there to here

After home and school, Coleman could usually be found at church while growing up. Even so, when it came time for college, he decided to study political science, with the intention of going on to law school and becoming a lawyer.

During Coleman's freshman year at Morehouse College in Atlanta, he became friends with a pastor's son. Within a year, Coleman felt called to the ministry.

Soon after Coleman became a minister at a church in Philadelphia, another friend told him he needed to check into an opening at a church in Oklahoma City called Fifth Street Missionary Baptist Church. That was 1998, a year after he married Sharri, whom he met at Morehouse.

More recently, just a few years ago, he became an adjunct professor in the African and African American Studies Program at the University of Oklahoma.

And now 14 years after coming to Oklahoma City, he'll preach three Easter services Sunday and then head to the Chesapeake Energy Arena to lead a service before the Thunder takes on the Toronto Raptors.

Coleman, who was approached in summer 2009 about being a chaplain for the team, prayed about it, talked with his wife about it, and accepted.

“These are public figures who need private encouragement. And the Oklahoma City Thunder is a great organization and they provide that opportunity.”

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