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Suns head coach Monty Williams, NBA pay tribute to Dr. King on MLK Day

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The NBA and its players, coaches took time to pay tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday.

Whether it was donning his likeness on shirts, rocking MLK-inspired shoes or sharing a few thoughts in the media scrums, Dr. King was on the minds of many among the NBA ranks.

For Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams, Dr. King helped pave the way for the head coach and countless others through his work.

“What Dr. King meant for a guy like me who’s in a leadership position in 2020, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Dr. King and people like him,” Williams told the media ahead of the Suns’ matchup with the San Antonio Spurs. “I’m always talking to my children about those pictures of Dr. King and those marches, and it wasn’t just one group of people. It was Dr. King and different ethnic groups, and in particular, white people with him that said, ‘hey, enough is enough.’

“That’s the beauty of Dr. King, he led and inspired everybody, and so when you think about his impact on our world and guys like me, I go back to a white person like Coach [Gregg Popovich] or R.C. Buford who said, ‘hey that doofus can coach with us’ and that’s Dr. King. Like Nate McMillan, who’s in a position of leadership in Portland and I had no bench experience at all and said, ‘hey that doofus can come with us.’ I think that is, in my eyes, Dr. King like and it’s had a huge impact on my life when I see people like that act like Dr. King and help elevate people like myself.”

Including Williams, six NBA teams are led by black head coaches.

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, whose team was in the Valley to take on the Suns on Monday night, issued his thoughts on Dr. King and the current state of race relations in the country.

“Everybody wants to forget about [the race situation in the U.S.], it should be there front and center constantly,” Popovich told reporters. “I don’t care what’s going on in the country — global warming, economics, manufacturing, trade wars with China, agriculture, impeachment, all these things — race is still the unanswered dilemma that everybody continues to ignore. Dr. King did not ignore it.”

Unlike Christmas Day games that have a limited schedule of games, 22 of the 30 squads are in action on Monday.

Breaking down a quote from Dr. King, Suns guard Tyler Johnson provided some context to the words said.

Brooklyn Nets guard Garrett Temple took time to address the crowd before tipping off with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Atlanta Hawks got in on the celebration of MLK too, using a choir for player intros.

The Raptors paid tribute to Dr. King with a player video.

The Suns’ halftime performance even had an added MLK feel to it.

In honor of Dr. King, The NBA provided players with MLK-themed warmup shirts.

The shirts read “We cannot walk alone,” which King said during his “I Have a Dream” speech on Aug. 28, 1963.

“We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”

The shirts were available for purchase on the NBA store Monday morning, but as of 3 p.m., it had sold out.

They cost $34.99 apiece, with the proceeds going toward the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.

Taking it upon themselves to honor Dr. King, players across the NBA made sure to add Dr. King to Monday’s attire.


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