Memphis Grizzlies players and coaches share sentiments about playing on MLK Day An event-filled weekend and win over Lakers gives team an edge going into MLK50

When NBA players live and work in a city where Martin Luther King Jr. made such an impact, they find themselves faced with a duty to defend their home court. The Memphis Grizzlies maneuvered their way to a 123-114 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday at the FedEx Forum in the 16th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration.

The day consisted of many festivities including the honoring of WNBA and NBA players during the 13th Annual National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award. This year’s recipients were Penny Hardaway, Sam Perkins, James Worthy and WNBA All-Star Swin Cash. The award recognizes dedicated contributions to civil and human rights and laying foundations for future leaders through their career in sports in the spirit of King.

(From left to right) Grizzlies interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff, Penny Hardaway, Sam Perkins, Bernie Bickerstaff, Swin Cash and James Worthy tour the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.

Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images

The weekend was filled with events that included a discussion at the National Civil Rights Museum (“MLK50: Where Do We Go From Here”) with Cash, Grizzlies guard Mike Conley and Lakers center Brook Lopez. Before tipoff on Monday, the honorees participated in the Earl Lloyd Sports Legacy Symposium.

Sports teams often visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, which houses the location where King was shot. Check out what players had to say about playing in Memphis on MLK Day while the city prepares for MLK50, the 50th year commemorating King’s death.

“When you have this opportunity to pay that respect, you do this job with the best of your ability. You give everything that you’ve got in honor of those who had to fight those fights for you and the sacrifices that they made for you. … Understanding how the organization, the city, and the community fought to get the game back on Martin Luther King Jr. Day was an eye-opening thing. It was an awareness of just how important this game is and how much it means to be played today.” – Grizzlies interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff

“This is my second time that I remember being part of MLK Day. It’s a special game, special moment for a person that did a lot for not only African-Americans but for us as a society. It’s always good to come out here and celebrate him.” – Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers

“It means a lot [to play in Memphis]. It brings a lot of my passion out and makes me want to play harder for the organization and for the Memphis fans. It’s my first MLK Day playing. It felt great. I’ve visited [the National Civil Rights Museum] twice. I learned so much about history. Coming from Canada, you don’t really know a lot because it’s very multicultural. I figured out a lot of things, like how to appreciate my culture more.” – Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks

“Coming out here every night and playing for Memphis means so much to me because the fans are great. I’ve got a lot of fan base from when I was in school. I can put up two jerseys: one for college and one for the NBA. Martin Luther King gave us a chance to chase our dreams, so I’m happy to play on this day.” – Grizzlies guard Tyreke Evans

“It’s an absolute honor to play on this holiday, I think. For where we are as a world and where we’re trying to go, Martin Luther King Jr. stood up for what was right. But what really separates him is he really emphasized doing it through a peaceful manner, and all he wanted is what everyone should want and that’s equality. To be able to play on this day, especially with a sport where you get so many people from different backgrounds and different places across the world, it’s an honor.” – Lakers head coach Luke Walton

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On this day in black history: Earl Lloyd dies, Fats Domino and Marshall Faulk are born and more Black History Month: The Undefeated edition Feb. 26

1926 — Theodore Flowers becomes middleweight boxing champ
Theodore “Georgia Deacon” Flowers was the first black boxer to be middleweight champion of the world, defeating titleholder Harry Greb in Madison Square Garden. Flowers, who started boxing at 18, was the first black boxer after Jack Johnson to fight for a world title. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.

1928 – Happy birthday, “Fats” Domino
New Orleans native Antoine “Fats” Domino Jr. is a singer and songwriter known for hits such as “The Fat Man” and “Blueberry Hill.” Five of his records sold over a million copies.

1976 — Happy birthday, Marshall Faulk
Marshall Faulk, the second overall pick in the 1994 NFL draft, Super Bowl winner and Hall of Famer, was born. Faulk is one of only three NFL players — Marcus Allen and Tiki Barber are the others — to amass at least 10,000 rushing yards and 5,000 receiving yards and he stands alone for finishing his career with 12,000 yards rushing and 6,000 yards receiving. In 2000, he won the Super Bowl as a member of the “The Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams and 11 years later, Faulk was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

1985 — Grammy Awards
At the Grammy Awards ceremony in 1985, Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down won best album of 1984. Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It” took the best record slot and earned her the title best female pop vocalist. The Pointer Sisters won best pop group for “Jump.”

2015 — The first African-American to play in the NBA dies
Earl Lloyd, the first African-American to play in an NBA game, died in Tennessee. On Oct. 31, 1950, when Lloyd stepped on the hardwood for his Washington Capitols game against the Rochester Royals, which the Capitols lost 78-70, he broke the color barrier for the league. He played nine seasons in the league for the Capitols, Syracuse Nationals and Detroit Pistons before his retirement. He started at power forward for the Syracuse Nationals during its NBA championship run.