NBA MLK Day 2024: Beyond Basketball and Towards Equality


Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. likely never anticipated its lasting and far-reaching influence when he gave his groundbreaking “I Have a Dream” speech at Washington’s Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963; over 250,000 people witnessed its delivery — over five years before Dr. King would tragically be assassinated at Memphis at such an early age of 39; yet 55 years on from then, its resonance still rings strongly throughout American history — primarily through NBA commemorations of its legacy.

MLK Day in the NBA

Every year, the NBA marks Martin Luther King Day by staging 11 memorable matches highlighting its commitment to equality. Mavericks coach Jason Kidd expressed his thanks and underscored its importance by teaching players and fans about Martin Luther King Day and Dr. King’s contributions to the sport and this country.

MLK Day Tradition

Since MLK Day first appeared on January 20, 1986, NBA games have taken place annually except for the 1999 lockout year. 2019 will mark the 378th game played on MLK Day; Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall highlights its unique nature, which coincides with Dr. King’s 95th birthday, and underscored it this year by using this year’s national theme: It Starts With Me to emphasize individual responsibility to identify issues, offer solutions and take positive actions toward creating an inclusive society.

NBA Coaches’ Perspectives

Notable NBA coaches, including Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr, stress the importance of preserving Dr. King’s legacy. Despite global issues, Popovich emphasizes that race remains an unresolved dilemma that cannot be ignored. Kerr appreciates MLK Day as a landmark in the NBA season, combining entertainment with the players’ commitment to social justice.


A Day Beyond Basketball

MLK Day goes beyond just basketball games for the NBA. Pelicans’ coach, Willie Green, reflects on celebrating Dr. King’s life and the opportunities it provides for individuals like himself who benefit from Dr. King’s dream. The NBA’s involvement is considered a privilege, with Kidd acknowledging the honor of working on days like Christmas and MLK Day, emphasizing the importance of educating the public on the significance of these occasions.


As the NBA continues its celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day with games and activities, it serves as an effective vehicle to raise awareness for his ideals while furthering equality and justice and upholding the legacy of an individual who dreamt of creating a fairer, more welcoming society.

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