January 17, 2022 | 12:02 pm EST Update
The National Basketball Association will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday with games and celebrations commemorating the life and legacy of the civil rights icon and Nobel Peace Prize winner, who dedicated his life to achieving racial equality. King would have celebrated his 93rd birthday today.
Some teams are also taking part in King celebrations in other ways; 10 teams are planning youth events in their cities as part of the “Team Up For Change” initiative that focuses on “uniting, inspiring and activating around a shared commitment and call for racial equality and social justice.” The Washington Wizards held a roundtable discussion last week on how King still impacts the push for social change — and Wizards forward Daniel Gafford said it’s important for even pro athletes to find time to help their communities, according to the Associated Press.
Nine-year NBA veteran and Illinois basketball great Meyers Leonard and his wife, Elle, a Gies College of Business graduate, have made a $500,000 gift to the Ubben Basketball Complex renovation and expansion project. Meyers and Elle will be in attendance at Monday’s tilt against Purdue, marking Meyers’ first game back in the arena since his final game as a Fighting Illini basketball player.
Saturday Night Live brought back their somewhat-recurring NBA on TNT sketch last night. Featuring Kenan Thompson as Charles Barkley, Alex Moffat as Ernie Johnson, and Chris Redd as Kenny Smith, the studio parody also found room (albeit barely, given the size jokes at play) for Bowen Yang as Yao Ming, filling in for Shaq.
The premise focused on the recent rash of disruptions to the NBA, which has forced what are essentially replacement players into action around the league. It was a fairly funny sketch (confession: I’m personally not the world’s biggest SNL fan, but this particular bit is as close to my wheelhouse as it gets, and Thompson and Redd are especially fun in their roles and Moffat got EJ’s cadence right, at least), recapping an imagined Nets-Kings first half that saw the Nets beating up on a roster filled with “fans and arena support staff.”