A look back at the exhibition game in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. While it’s a federal holiday here in the U.S., it’s also a reminder of the ongoing fight against racial discrimination.

King was assassinated in 1968, but the holiday wasn’t signed into law until 1983. It wasn’t first observed until 1986, and it took until 2000 before all 50 states celebrated the holiday.

Shortly after King was assassinated, the NBA’s players agreed to an exhibition game in his honor. This article from Kevin Robertson dives into that game and the mindset and feelings of the players involved.

The entire article is worth reading, but I especially liked this section on former NBA guard and coach Lenny Wilkens.

[Wilkens] knew about the issues that led King to refer to America as a “sick” society. When he played in St. Louis as a rookie, downtown restaurants refused him service. When he moved into an otherwise white neighborhood, FOR SALE signs went up on lawns. Wilkens admired King’s willingness to test society’s status quo.

“I couldn’t believe the dedication he had,” Wilkens says, “He had a saying: Judge a person by the content of their mind and not the color of the skin. I refused to be intimidated because of people like Dr. King.”

I hope you take some time today to reflect on what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for, and all that can still be done. And I encourage you to find ways to show kindness to your fellow people. Most of us are just trying to do the best we can.