In 1983, President Ronald Regan signed into law the third Monday of January would be a federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his role in the Civil Rights Movement. Since the beginning, the main purpose of that day has been about volunteering services to others. It is a day on not a day off. The NBA has been front and center with interviewing current and former players, asking them what the day means to them. They also provided us with eleven games to watch on MLK Day.
The Charlotte Hornets hosted the Detroit Pistons in the first game. Thanks to Kemba Walker scoring 17 of 20 points in the second half, they won 118-107. Walker got plenty of help from center Dwight Howard who finished with 21 points and 17 rebounds.
The city of “Brotherly Love” welcomed the team from Canada. The Philadelphia Sixers followed Joel Embid’s 34 points and 11 rebounds to a 117-111 victory over the Toronto Raptors. Kyle Lowry and Ben Simmons were both ejected during the game and met in the hallway to fight. What happened to, “I decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
The Washington Wizards invited the Milwaukee Bucks to the nation’s capital. The Wizards “had a dream” that didn’t become a reality. John Wall scored 27 points and had nine assists. Giannis Antetokounmpo matched Wall’s 27 points and 20 rebounds to lead the Bucks to a 104-95 victory.
The pupil beat the teacher again. Atlanta Hawks’ Coach Bud beat his mentor Coach Popovich of San Antonio Spurs 102-99. Bud was an assistant for 17 years with Pop and after losing the first six games, he is now 2-8. This was largely due to Dennis Schroder’s 26 points and Ersan Ilysavoa’s 20 points.
The “Subway Series” was played in Brooklyn. The New York Knicks took the “Q” train to a 119-104 victory. Kristaps Porzingis had 26 points and nine rebounds. Michael Beasley helped with 23 points and 10 rebounds. The Knicks are now 21-11 on MLK Day despite losing their last five of seven on that day.
The Miami Heat were on a seven-game winning streak until cooling off in Chicago. Zach LaVine’s 18 points, five rebounds, five assists, and two steals led the Bulls to a 119-111 win. It was only his second game as Bull. The leading scorer was Justin Holiday with 25 points, making a career best seven 3s.
Memphis was the city where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It was also the site of a 123-114 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The Grizzlies had eight players score in double digits. They shot 51 percent from the field and 46 percent from three. Not having Lonzo Ball because of a knee injury wouldn’t have mattered with the defense the Grizzlies were playing. The Grizzlies now have a 7-9 record playing on MLK Day.
Commissioner Adam Silver needs to get a hold on the referees. This is getting plum ridiculous! Another superstar was ejected from a game for no reason. Russell Westbrook got tossed in the fourth quarter for arguing a travel call against him, after being hit in the face. The Oklahoma City Thunder followed Carmelo Anthony and Paul George to a 95-88 victory over the Sacramento Kings. Melo had 20 points and George finished with 18.
The matchup of the day was the Golden State Warriors verse the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs 13 game home winning streak was snapped by a 108-118 loss. Kevin Durant scored 32 points, 16 in the third quarter. Steph Curry had 23 points. Lebron James had 32 points, but the game showed that the Cavs will not beat the Warriors in the NBA Finals this season. They are going to have to make a trade for a big man that can protect the rim like DeAndre Jordan.
Don’t look now, but the Indiana Pacers are only 2 ½ games behind the Cavs. They went out to Utah and won 109-94. Victor Oladipo scored 28 points as the Pacers shot 54 percent from 3-point range. Thaddeus Young scored 17 points as well. The one bright spot for the Jazz is rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell. He continued his outstanding play by scoring 23 points in a losing effort.
The nightcap was just that. Chris Paul returned to Los Angeles for the first time since becoming a Houston Rocket. The Clippers ruined the celebration with a 113-102 victory, led by Lou Williams’ 31 points. However, more was made about the Rockets’ using a secret tunnel to get to the Clippers locker room and starting an altercation where LAPD was called in. I thought MLK Day was a day of peace. Guess we all have some things to work on.
The league does an excellent job when compared to the other major sports when it comes to Dr. King’s legacy on integration and inclusion. Dr. King was not an athlete but he understood the roles that athletes play in society and the challenges that some endure. He understood the discrimination of not only race but also gender and age. Now, more than ever, is the time to follow Dr. King’s message. “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”