Why the Hawks and Grizzlies always host NBA games on Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, explained

In the United States, the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are celebrated on Martin Luther King Day, which always falls on the third Monday in January. The holiday, which is a celebration of Dr. King’s Jan. 15 birthday, was first observed in 1986.

While it would be another 14 years before the holiday was observed in all 50 states, the NBA began its holiday celebrations in 1986. MLK Day has been a feature day on the league’s calendar with marquee games and a focus on Dr. King’s message and service to the community.

38 years later, MLK Day is still a marquee date on the NBA calendar, with 11 games scheduled to take place on the holiday in 2024. Among the extensive slate are nationally televised games played at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena and the FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn., an annual feature of the holiday.

Why do the Hawks and Grizzlies always host home games on MLK Day? Here is how Atlanta and Memphis are intertwined with Dr. King’s life, legacy and impact on the Civil Rights Movement.

MORE: How to vote for 2024 NBA All-Star starters

Which NBA teams always play on Martin Luther King Jr. holiday?

Atlanta Hawks

With the exception of 1998 and 2017, the Hawks have hosted an MLK Day game every season since 1994. Atlanta is also the site of the first-ever MLK Day game on Jan. 20, 1986.

2024 marks the 25th consecutive year that the Hawks will play on MLK Day and the 32nd time overall. Only the Knicks, Lakers and 76ers have played on the holiday more than the Hawks

The reason why the Hawks almost always host games on the holiday is simple: Dr. King was born on Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta. And while he would go on to make his impact felt worldwide, King is rooted in Atlanta, where he spent his formative years and enrolled at Morehouse College at the age of 15.

King’s legacy has always been intertwined with the Hawks, but the connection was made even stronger during the 2020-21 season when the franchise introduced special “City Edition” uniforms featuring King’s initials. In 2022, the Hawks unveiled an MLK wall at State Farm Arena.

Memphis Grizzlies

Except for 2002 and 2017, the Grizzlies have hosted an MLK Day game every season since moving to Memphis ahead of the 2001-02 season. Since relocating, the Grizzlies have played on MLK Day 22 times. 2024 will mark the seventh straight year that the Grizzlies will play on the holiday.

As for why games are played in Memphis, Dr. King stood at the forefront of the workers taking part in the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike in 1968. It was in Memphis that King would deliver his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” address, the final speech he would deliver.

King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, at Memphis’ Lorraine Motel, which is now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.

During the 2017-18 season, the Grizzlies wore uniforms inspired by the Sanitation Strike, to commemorate the 50th anniversary. On the uniforms, “Memphis” was stylized like the protesters’ “I Am A Man” signs.

NBA MLK Day schedule 2024

Game Time (ET) TV channel
Rockets at 76ers 1 p.m. NBA TV
Pelicans at Mavericks 2:30 p.m. League Pass
Magic at Knicks 3 p.m. League Pass
Pistons at Wizards 3 p.m. League Pass
Spurs at Hawks 3:30 p.m. TNT
Warriors at Grizzlies 6 p.m. TNT
Bulls at Cavaliers 7 p.m. League Pass
Heat at Nets 7:30 p.m. League Pass
Celtics at Raptors 7:30 p.m. League Pass
Pacers at Jazz 9 p.m. League Pass
Thunder at Lakers 10:30 p.m. NBA TV

WATCH: Follow the biggest games of the NBA season with Sling TV

NBA teams MLK Day appearances

Here are the number of appearances for all NBA teams on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, including the games played in 2024:

Team MLK Day games
Knicks 37
Lakers 33
76ers 33
Hawks 32
Wizards 32
Warriors 30
Rockets 30
Bulls 30
Pistons 29
Clippers 26
Celtics 26
Nets 26
Pacers 26
Timberwolves 25
Hornets 24
Bucks 23
Grizzlies 23
Thunder 23
Spurs 22
Jazz 22
Suns 20
Kings 20
Cavaliers 20
Mavericks 20
Magic 19
Raptors 19
Pelicans 18
Nuggets 17
Trail Blazers 17
Heat 17

Source : ESPN.com

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