Michael Gordon, 29: Wanted to teach through athletics

Michael Gordon, an Atlanta native, was reared a Seventh-day Adventist. He and his family strictly followed the teachings of the church, including observance of the Sabbath. That meant from sundown Friday until after sundown Saturday, no basketball, no matter how badly others wanted him to play.

“He did not waiver on his faith, and he always observed his Sabbath,” said his father, the Rev. Walter Gordon, who pastors Trinity Seventh-day Adventist in LaGrange. “And, when it became his choice, he chose to honor the religious preference he grew up with.”

Often a scoring leader for Benjamin E. Mays High School during his four years, Michael Gordon sometimes had to miss basketball games when they fell during the Sabbath. He opted to attend an Adventist college, where he could play ball and worship without fear of a schedule conflict, his father said, adding, “He could have chosen differently, but he didn't.”

Michael Antonio Gordon, of East Point, died June 15 from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident. He was 29. A funeral is planned for noon Friday at Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church, Atlanta. Burial will immediately follow at Westview Cemetery. Murray Brothers, Cascade Chapel, is in charge of arrangements.

At the time of his death, Mr. Gordon was a teacher and coach in the Fulton County school system. He had recently earned a master’s degree in kinesiology – the study of human movement – from Georgia Southern, with hopes of starting his own sports and education academy one day, said his sister, Tangela Gordon Sanders, of Atlanta.

“He wanted learning to come easier for students, and he knew that could happen through athletics,” Mrs. Sanders said. “He believed in making learning fun for kids. He was a big dreamer.”

Mr. Gordon was also a big shooter on the basketball court, said Keith Winston, a former AAU coach. Mr. Gordon wasn’t 6 feet tall, so his coach encouraged him to shoot from “outside the fray and not to get mixed up with those bigger guys.”

“He still played in an adult league in College Park,” Mr. Winston said. “My son, who plays too, came over the other day and said Michael had something like 35 points in their last game. They went back through the scorer’s book and saw that most of his points came from 3-pointers.”

Mr. Gordon was a good athlete, said his mother, Vivian Gordon, “but there was much more to him.” She said her son spent time working not only with children, but clothing and feeding the homeless. Whenever and wherever he could help, he did, she said.

“When he came back from college he gathered up all of the basketballs he’d collected and took them to the parks,” she said. “He knew there were children who didn’t have a basketball, and he had more than he needed, so he shared. By the same token, he would take clothes to the shelter on Pine Street and help feed the people there. He just had such a giving heart.”

In addition to his parents and sister, Mr. Gordon is survived by a brother, Walter "Pumpkin" Gordon III, of East Point.