NBA celebrates MLK Day

Mike Conley is honored to be part of the NBA’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration as his Memphis Grizzlies host the Chicago Bulls in the tipoff of four nationally televised games Monday. It’s become an annual tradition in Memphis, which is intimately connected to the legacy of Dr. King and is home to the Civil Rights Museum.

“It is unique because Memphis has very sensitive ties to Martin Luther King with all that happened here in the city during that time,” Conley said by phone Sunday. “It touched a lot of people in the city of Memphis. For us to be spotlighted and for us to be able to play on this day is an honor that every person on our team and in our organization feels.”

The Grizzlies and Bulls start the MLK Day celebration at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN. NBA TV follows with 4 p.m. showcase with Sacramento at Atlanta. TNT finishes the evening with a doubleheader featuring an Eastern Conference finals rematch between Boston and Orlando (8 p.m.) before the nightcap of Oklahoma City visiting the Los Angeles Lakers (10:30 p.m.).

Dr. King’s eternal message continues to be a source of hope for people of all generations and backgrounds.

“His message was about people being judged by the content of their character, which is about trying to accomplish things using your head,” said Bob Lanier, a Hall of Famer who remains closely involved with the NBA. “A lot of what we do in the NBA, for example the NBA Cares program where we deal with social responsibility, has our players going into the community.

“Most of our players are players of color and all of our players, both domestically and worldwide, try to touch people’s lives, not only through their words but their deeds. I think that goes along with the messaging of Dr. King extremely well because it shows the whole culture of people helping people. The other portion of his dream was people having equal opportunity and not being judged by the color of their skin.”

Lanier added that the significance of Dr. King is sometimes lost on today’s players. That’s why MLK Day is so important, Conley said.

“Players can easily overlook it and not realize how hard it once was and how America was once,” he said. “Having Martin Luther King Day and all the games played on this day, it puts a spotlight on it and more of an emphasis on him and what he was able to do.

“I think every player in all different sports realizes that we wouldn’t be here in this situation if it wasn’t for what he and others during that time were to able to accomplish. I think guys really do get that message on Martin Luther King Day.”

Here’s a look at what some teams are doing to commemorate Martin Luther King Day:

Grizzlies: Grizzlies salute the Legacy of Dr. King and what the civil rights movement means to them.

Nuggets: Players talk about Dr. King’s impact.

Wizards: Bob Dandridge discusses Dr. King.

Blazers: Buck Williams, Hersey Hawkins and Bernie Bickerstaff reflect on the Dr. King’s legacy.

Hawks: Players talking about the importance of Dr. King and playing on MLK day.

Bulls: Ronnie Brewer at a community MLK event.

Cavs: Black Heritage Celebration.

Nets: Famous Dr. King quotes.


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  5. Jonty says:

    Dr. Martin Luther Jr was a great civil Rights leader. Who fought for all of our rights to make us better amercians. We came along way from Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, Rosa Parks, Dr, King Dream, and electing a first African American Presidents Barrack Obama. WE got to move foward and Dr. King Dream Is accomplished. Dr King did alot for the all the Races. Long Live the King and the Dream

  6. Rob says:

    of course more study needs to be done but I am just happy that the league and other are actually looking at the historical significance of MLK to the U.S. and the world. I believe the term “our people” comes from pride at seeing positive change occur, in this case, for African Americans. It would seem to develop from an awareness of how certain groups were not accepted as part of the American fabric. All immigrant groups suffered some sort of discrimination but for most of the early immigrant groups, (this is simplified so don’t trip), if they learned the language, dropped the accent, changed their name, and began to act like the dominate culture, they could fit in without blatant discrimination. The “our people” that I grew up with came when pride began to well up in immigrants of African descent while unable to follow the same immigrant rules of acceptance, saw positive change in their culture.

    Simplification of a hugely complex situation, but in short, I don’t trip about that with all the other issues millionaires and billionaires could address instead of working toward strikes and depriving the fans of the entertainment we pay so much to see. Have you noticed the cable bills today!?!

  7. Why would Cheryl Miller use the label “our people”? Berniece King obviously denegrated. If you can’t apply this universally, maybe it isn’t appropriate, Cheryl. Do some study on Irish history. I appreciated Charles Barkley’s comments.

  8. Rob says:

    Great Job. Saw the interview on NBA TV with one comment.
    Cheryl spoke about the dream being realized, and I want to caution her and other about the difference in their dream being realized and Dr. King’s dream being realized. Dr. King’s dream was so far reaching that he truly did encompass the world. His “not so famous” support of economic rights for all was not even popular among blacks at the time.
    So, while many are realizing their dreams due to the work of leaders including Dr. King, we should not forget that the work necessary to realize his full dream is far from over. The NBA is ahead of most of the country but until educational inequities, employment opportunities, and poverty are fully engaged for fairness, we can only take credit for individual dream realization, not the full dream.
    Great job by the NBA. Many of the young players and executives should learn plenty due to the exposure.

  9. Valerine says:

    I am a Nigerian woman and grew up in England. I emigrated to the US in ’97. I am so grateful to Dr. Martin Luther King, to Rosa Parks, to Jesse Jackson, to Al Sharpton, to Malcolm X and all the other untold many who fought, spoke, marched, sat in and sacrificed so that we could all be free. They opened the door for all people, brown, yellow, red, and white. They made clear the way for women to come into their own. It saddens and shocks me to realize that not all of the American people realize the import and significance of the Civil Rights movement. It is that movement that makes it possible for all of us to have access and opportunity in this country to be what we dream. I thank God for them and hope and pray that we all celebrate Civil Rights every year and fight for it to be a nationally recognized holiday. It is as important as Independence Day and Presidents Day, if not more so. God bless you all.

  10. […] King Day, Memphis Grizzlies, Mike Conley, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings / 5 Comments […]

  11. Ant says:

    Hey Art,

    The Rudy Gay/MLK/NBA promo that just ran during the Grizzlie’s game with him talking about MLK being responsible for being able to play with an African, Spaniard, Iranian, etc and call them family is HEAVY. The NBA needs to make that clip avail for people to be able to share on their social networks today! Missed opportunity!!

    Just wanted to put a bug in someone’s ear in case it’s not too late…

  12. Roland says:

    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s efforts played a large part in the passage of civil rights, which was a momentous decision in this country — not only for African Americans, but also Asian, Hispanic, Native, Arab Americans, and women of all races. So despite that some people continue to debate the legitimacy of MLK/Civil Rights Day, I’m glad to see the NBA continuing to recognize the significance of this holiday and Dr King’s achievements.

  13. Sammy says:

    Happy Martin Luther King Day! I hope the Chicago Bulls win because Derrick Rose is amazing. Sorry Mike COnley.

  14. Jordan says:

    Well done on an excellent speach. It must be alot of pressure to be giving such a speach, and it was well delivered. Congradulations and condolences – your father would be proud 🙂

  15. Jan Laughlin says:

    Absolutely riveting interview. Very well presented. Interesting. MLK’s daughter does her father proud. Well-spoken, well-dressed, great make-up. Impressed. Very interesting interview. Thank you.