NBA, New Orleans Pelicans continue to celebrate Black History Month


Tiana Watts | Staff Artist

Many have their own ways of recognizing and honoring important figures during Black History Month, and those in the world of sports are no different.

The NBA is just one of the many organizations honoring this month. The association has a long history of giving platforms to prominent African-American athletes who have become important figures in black history. Though most basketball players in the NBA today are black, the association originated as all-white institution that desegregated around the time of the Civil Rights Movement.

The NBA remained entirely white until 1950, when six African-American players entered the league. This turning point blazed a trail for black players to enter the NBA, initiating the interconnection between basketball and black history. From this point on, the NBA has seen the rise of many legendary black athletes.

In 1956 the St. Louis Hawks drafted 11-time NBA champion Bill RussellThe Philadelphia Warriors drafted center Wilt Chamberlain three years later. Chamberlain went on to record a monumental NBA record, scoring 100 points in a single game against the New York Knicks.

Russell and Chamberlain were the forerunners of a star-studded line of African-American basketball players: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon — the list goes on.

This tradition has continued in the NBA of today, with celebrity-athletes such as LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving. These athletes are not only influential in basketball history, but in African-American history. Black athletes continue to innovate and reinvent the continually evolving game of basketball.

While this history may seem far from home, its reach can be found here in New Orleans. The New Orleans Pelicans of the NBA have been celebrating this Black History Month in a few different ways. Fans can find stars Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and the the entire Pelicans team wearing warm-up shirts depicting a commitment to equality and diversity at their games this month. Additionally, the Pelicans are honoring exceptional black community members at games and are hosting a Black History Month essay contest for local students.

Tulane students were outspoken in their support of these activities, and of the activities of the league. Freshman Mark Lisi said he found the NBA’s support of black history crucial to the portrayal of the players.

“I know specifically that the Golden State Warriors have aired a few performances honoring the month,” Lisi said. “Also, many of the league’s most notable figures, such as [San Antonio Spurs coach] Gregg Popovich, have spoken out about the inequality problems in America.”

Freshman Bella Baff agreed but said she thinks the NBA could do more for the players, especially when their First Amendment rights are called into question.

“It is very important for the NBA to continue to honor the month and even take a stronger stance in supporting its players,” Baff said. 

The NBA has celebrated Black History Month for a number of years and plans on continuing to do so. A league defined by generations of black athletes honors the history of its players.

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