Watching the New York Knicks break away from the Brooklyn Nets in the fourth quarter, building a 15-point lead as the game slipped away from Brooklyn, in Brooklyn, Monday afternoon, one of the NBA’s scheduled tribute games honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., thoughts of several of Dr. King’s speeches, some quotes and what he stood for came to mind as another of the King tributes aired over head on the large Barclays Center JumboTron:
“I Have A Dream”/ “The Letter From Birmingham Jail,” his book, “Where Do We Go From Here,” a quote: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
As I sat in comfort during the game, I did think about why are we watching a basketball game on this day, Dr. King’s actual birthday, Jan. 15, instead of doing something more important, something that would pay a greater tribute to what he stood for.
“It’s what you make it,” said Cliff Frazier, head of the New York Metropolitan Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolence in the Bronx, in regards to how the day is spent or celebrated. “It’s what it means to you.”
Because of the time of year and demographics, the NBA leads the way in sports with its acknowledgements and tributes to the legacy of Dr. King.
According to The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, the NBA was estimated to be 74.3 percent Black during the 2015-16 season. The institute, at the University of Central Florida, estimated that 69.7 percent of this season’s NFL players were Black. Except for weekend playoff games being held, NFL games aren’t played on this day.
In addition to the game in Brooklyn, 10 other NBA games were played in American cities: Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, Memphis, Cleveland, Oklahoma City, Utah and Los Angeles. Team, players and league tributes took place, as well as some programs. The National Hockey League also participated.
The Los Angeles Kings hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning at Staples Center Monday as part of the MLK holiday celebration. Former player Willie O’Ree, the first Black player in NHL history, took part in pregame and postgame events, and he dropped the ceremonial pregame puck.
Considered the Jackie Robinson of hockey, O’Ree debuted with the Boston Bruins 60 years ago this week in 1958. He played professionally, major league and minors, until 1979.