About 18,000 people are watching you work each night if you’re playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA. The Thunder in November had seven home games and eight on the road with the latter including a trip to Florida sandwiched between trips to California. And don’t forget a couple trips to Texas and a trip to Utah. So, there’s an abundance of both visibility and travel for a player in the NBA. The Rev. A. Byron Coleman III is in his first season as a chaplain for the Thunder. He’s a busy man in his own right, not only pastoring the Fifth Street Missionary Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, but also teaching two courses per semester as an adjunct professor in the African and African American Studies Program at the University of Oklahoma. However as chaplain, this pastor has not only given but gained from the experience. "I’ve gained an even greater respect for their ability to be even-keeled and levelheaded,” he said, "because I looked at their schedule before the season started, but it didn’t really make sense to me. "When I started watching Sports Center and they’re in this city one night and they fly to the next city the next night, and every night you have to perform at that caliber, people underestimate the pressure, the stress. "I highly respect that and admire them.” Coleman was no stranger to the NBA. His freshman year at Homewood-Flossmoor High School in the Chicago suburbs was the rookie season for a Chicago Bulls player out of the University of North Carolina named Michael Jordan. Coleman, who has served as pastor at 5th Street Missionary Baptist Church for 12 years, always maintained an appreciation for the game. But he wasn’t a diehard fan. No foam finger, no face paint, no season tickets. He had given the invocation a couple of times at Hornets games during their stay in Oklahoma City. And as far as sports goes, he’s come to know several OU athletes from teaching. But his appreciation of sports was from the outside. That may be a good thing, he said. About 1 hours before tip-off at home Thunder games, Coleman or another chaplain lead a 10- to 15-minute chapel. "That’s a moment of reflection for them and I appreciate that,” he said. "These are public figures who need private encouragement. You need someone who’s not a fan. "I admire them and appreciate them. But I’m not here for an autograph. I’m there to encourage.” Coleman usually offers a "word theme” during each devotion. It may be something like faith, courage or strength. Then he reads scripture on the theme. "So if I talked about gratitude, it would be 1 Thessalonians 5:18,” he said. "It says ‘give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’ "God wants us to be grateful for what He’s given us, for what He’s provided. I think God blesses grateful, humble people. People that are just glad to be alive, glad that He’s gifted them.” And that ties into why Coleman agreed to serve as a chaplain for the Thunder. He was already busy. However, he saw this as another opportunity. He accepted and is very glad he did.