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.