For African-Americans, MLK Day is more than just a holiday. It also serves as much needed day of reflection to honor one of the most influential figures in our world’s history. In sports, it has a significant place, but none more prevalent than in the NBA. With more than 78 percent of the players in the NBA being African American, the league adopted an annual practice of making the holiday a full showcase experience. Each year a full slate of games are played throughout the day to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King with a highlighted stop in Memphis, home of the National Civil Rights Museum. And while the games have not had the same appeal as the Christmas Day extravaganza, there have been numerous performances of note that are worth a mention.
In looking back through the archives to find the best of the best, a collection of performances caught immediate attention. In this case it wasn’t just about the games and the numbers, it was the fact that many of them all happened on the same day. MLK Day, January 17, 2011 produced gems that are historic in their own right:
1:00 PM (FedEx Forum, Memphis) – While missing two key players from the Chicago Bulls lineup, point guard Derrick Rose took matters into his own hands recording the first triple-double of his young career. The line included 22 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. (*One hour later Boris Diaw of the Charlotte Bobcats recorded a triple-double as well with 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists in an overtime loss to the 76ers)
1:00 PM (Madison Square Garden) – Back when STAT aka Amar'e Stoudemire was truly one of the most dominate players in the game, he put up a monster game against his former team the Phoenix Suns. Amar'e scored a season-high 41 points, but dropped a 129-121 decision. (Stoudemire had scored 20 points in 25 straight games, surpassing Bernard Kings’s streak of 24 from in 1985 for the third longest in Knicks history).
3:30 PM (Staples Center, Los Angeles) – Rookie Blake Griffin was talk of the league, posterizing defenders with his hire-wire act. On this day Griffin put the entire arsenal on display posting a career high 47 points in a Clippers 114 to 107 victory over the Pacers. He would finish 19 of 24 from the floor with 14 rebounds and three assists.
A total of ten games accross the country will highlight a day of celebration. In addition to the festivities the NBA will also launch its "Dream Big" campaign, an effort created to encourage everyone to follow in the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King. An ad featuring Miami Heat star Chris Bosh will kick things off and continue throughout February to celebrate Black History Month.