Chapel ministry in professional sports started over 50 years ago. Today every major American Sport has a chapel ministry, including NASCAR.

In the early 1960s, MLB players from the Cubs and Twins initiated chapel services when they were on road trips. Services were usually held at the team hotel. In 1973, Watson Spoelstra, a Detroit sportswriter, approached Commissioner Bowie Kuhn with the idea of organizing a chapel program for every major league team. Kuhn approved, and Baseball Chapel was created.

Ira Lee "Doc" Eshleman, was the founder of the NFL Player's Chapel Program. In the 1960s he initiated the pre-game chapel services now conducted by every professional football team to encourage athletes in their faith. Since the early '70s, Athletes In Action (AIA) has been providing the NFL with chaplains who serve on a full-time basis as volunteers for league teams.

Some chaplains are full-time and some are even financially supported. But the origin of the NBA Player's Chaplain program is more organic, has always been player-driven, and staffed by volunteer ministers.

The earliest known NBA player's chapel activity dates back to Bobby Jones and Claude Terry, while the two played in Denver around 1976.

According to Pat Williams, the general manager of Philadelphia from 1974 through 1986, the 76ers made a trade with Denver for Bobby Jones in the summer of 1978. "The very first time I met him he said to me, 'I'd like to start a chapel service with my new team, would you help me?

Pat agreed to support Jones' initiative and found a speaker and space for this first Chapel service held in Philly on a Sunday in February of 1979. Bobby and Julius “Dr. J” Irving, were the first two in attendance.

Troubled by Dave Cowens’ 1977 midseason hiatus from his beloved Celtics, Bill Alexson longed for an NBA chapel ministry similar to ones that already existed in MLB and the NFL. The son of Andrew "Doc" Alexson, who played and managed in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization, Bill grew up around professional athletes.

Fresh out of Bible College Bill was invited to attend the 1979 Pro Athlete's Outreach Conference in Dallas by "Doc" Eshleman of the NFL Chapel Program. Hearing of Bill's desire, he encouraged Bill to pursue a similar ministry with Professional Basketball players.

That season with the support of Hawks player John Brown and coach Hubie Brown, Alexson held his first chapel in Atlanta. By this season Claude Terry was also a member of the Hawks.

Over the next couple of years, Bill, along with Christian players around the league, began to establish NBA Player's Chapel ministries throughout the NBA.

Bill is still active serving the spiritual needs of professional basketball players today through Sportspower International and the BIG3 basketball league.

Currently every NBA team has a volunteer Chaplain.  Some teams have 2 or more chaplains.  Our only objective is to positively influence their spiritual life. To have any hope of accomplishing this kind of deep impact, we need access to their heart, to build a trusting relationship.

Beyond our service to the players, most NBA chaplains have developed a comprehensive arena ministry, encouraging and providing spiritual support to team coaches and staff, as well as to hospitality, security and other service personnel.

To secure the legacy and future positive impact of sports chaplaincy, NBA chaplains have adopted the following mission and vision statements:


To engage Players and Coaches with biblical principles and moral guidance, inspiring them to thrive spiritually in their personal lives and athletic endeavors.


Players and coaches maximizing their positive impact upon the league, their families and their communities, during their active and retirement years.