MLK Jr. Celebration To Recognize Tamika Catchings

Tamika Catchings
MLK Jr. Celebration Game to recognize first-ever female honoree, Tamika Catchings.
Memphis Grizzlies 14th Annual MLK Jr. Celebration Day set for Jan 18

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 18, the Memphis Grizzlies will host the 14th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Game, presented by FedEx, in a nationally-televised game on ESPN vs. the New Orleans Pelicans at 1:30 p.m. The celebration game events will also include the 11th Annual MLK Jr. Symposium and three other events to remember, celebrate and act on the legacy left by Dr. King with this year’s honorees of the 11th Annual National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award, presented by FedEx.

This year’s honorees of the 11th Annual National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award are a star-studded lineup of NBA and WNBA playmakers and game changers: Jalen Rose, Spencer Haywood and the first-ever female honoree, Tamika Catchings. All will be honored during the MLK Jr. Celebration Day events, including the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Sports Legacy Symposium presented by the Hyde Family Foundation on Jan. 18, for their significant contributions to civil and human rights, and for laying the foundation for future leaders through their career in sports in the spirit of Dr. King.

About this year’s recipients of the 11th Annual National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award

Tamika Catchings: Known as the WNBA’s Indiana Fever’s “do everything” forward, Tamika Catchings is set to become the WNBA’s only player ever to spend an entire career of 15 or more seasons with the same franchise, joining an elite group of her NBA counterparts to conquer the same designation: Kobe Bryant (19), John Stockton (19), Tim Duncan (18), Reggie Miller (18), Dirk Nowitzki (17), John Havlicek (16), Hal Greer (15), Elgin Baylor (14), Joe Dumars (14), Tony Parker (14), David Robinson (14), and Jerry West (14).

On the court, she’s earned WNBA Finals MVP honors while leading the Fever to the 2012 WNBA championship. A year earlier, in 2011, she captured her first regular-season MVP honor. Last year, Catchings announced her intentions to retire following the 2016 WNBA season which coincides with the Summer Olympics in August 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Catchings hopes to join an elite club with Teresa Edwards and Lisa Leslie who are currently the only American basketball players, male or female, to earn four Olympic gold medals. She is currently the WNBA career playoffs leader in points, rebounds, free throws and steals. Off the court, Catchings is one of the country’s most highly-regarded citizen-athletes. An inductee of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, Catchings has spread her good works throughout Indiana and through national campaigns. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton appointed Catchings to serve on the U.S. Department of State’s Council to Empower Women and Girls Through Sports. Serving in that capacity, she has traveled around the globe to engage girls and women through the power of sport. Among her social and cultural accolades, Catchings also serves as President of the WNBA Player Association.

Jalen Rose: ESPN Analyst Jalen Rose will be honored at this year’s events, celebrating his 13-year NBA career (1994-2007), most notably spent with the Indiana Pacers alongside Reggie Miller, where he reached three consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearances, including a trip to the 2000 NBA Finals. As the 13th overall pick of the 1994 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets, Rose left the fabled University of Michigan Wolverines where he was part of the “Fab Five” recruiting class of 1991. During his tenure, the Wolverines made two NCAA Finals appearances in 1992 and 1993 before Rose left for the 1994 NBA Draft. As a freshman, Rose led the Fab Five in scoring, amassing 19 points per game, and set the school freshman scoring record with 597 total points. Subsequently, Michigan is the only team in Final Four history to ever start five freshman. Off the court, in 2000 Rose established the Jalen Rose Foundation/Charitable Fund to create opportunity for underprivileged youth. Since its inception, Rose has personally donated more than $1.2 million to the fund. Successively in 2011, Rose then created the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy (JRLA) in his hometown Detroit. The 9-12th grade public charter high school seeks to transform students into scholars, where they develop character, skills and necessary knowledge to matriculate and graduate from college so they have the opportunities to be successful in today’s competitive world. The Detroit News’ 2013 Michiganian of the Year, Rose currently serves as President of the Board of Directors for the JRLA and is a recognized Ambassador and Spokesperson for the National Basketball Retired Players Association.

Spencer Haywood: A legend of the ABA, Mississippi-native Spencer Haywood forever changed the NBA landscape. As a 20-year old rookie with the ABA’s Denver Rockets in 1969-70, Haywood owned the league’s Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player designations, while also leading the league in scoring and rebounding, grabbing an average of 19.5 rebounds per game, the ABA’s all-time record. Haywood shook the scene in the 1970-71 season when he decided to sign with the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics. At the time, the NBA prohibited the drafting and signing of a player before his college class graduated. The NBA league office and other NBA teams opposed the move, protesting that it violated existing rules. Subsequently, the NBA took Haywood and the Sonics to court. The argument in Haywood’s favor was that, as the sole wage earner in his struggling family, he was a “hardship case” and therefore had a right to begin earning his living. The Supreme Court ruled in Haywood’s favor, forever altering professional basketball. Beginning in 1971, underclassmen were allowed to enter the NBA Draft provided they could give evidence of “hardship” to the NBA office. In 1976 the hardship requirement was eliminated in favor of the current Early Entry procedure, whereby any athlete with remaining college eligibility can enter the NBA Draft on the condition that he notifies the league office at least 45 days before the draft. But before the final legal decision, Haywood would encounter a lot of hostility from the general public about his attempts to play in the NBA. However, after finally being cleared to play late in the 1970-71 season, Haywood joined the Sonics and averaged 20.6 ppg over the final 33 games. The five years he spent with Seattle represented the most stable and productive period of his career — he made four NBA All-Star Teams, two All-NBA First Teams and two All-NBA Second Teams. After retiring from playing in 1983, Haywood became involved in real estate development in Detroit, and wrote his autobiography, Spencer Haywood: The Rise, the Fall, the Recovery.

MLK Day Celebration and Game

A new addition to the MLK Jr. weekend celebration, the Grizzlies together with the Jr. NBA, the League’s official youth basketball program, will conduct a 32-team (U13 and U11 boys and girls) MLK Jr. Tournament on Sunday, Jan. 17 from 9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. The Jr. NBA presented by Under Armour, teaches the fundamentals and the values of the game at the grassroots level to help improve the youth basketball experience for all.

All participating teams in Sunday’s pool play will receive a three-game guarantee. Each player will be given a free Jr. NBA reversible jersey, a Jr. NBA drawstring bag and wristband. The tournament will also include a roundtable discussion on leadership featuring NBA & WNBA legends Spencer Haywood and Tamika Catchings.

Finalists from each division will be treated to an NBA experience. Championship games will be held on the main court at FedExForum on Monday, Jan. 18 from 8 – 10:30 a.m. In addition, all eight teams that qualify for the finals will receive game tickets for up to ten players and two coaches to the 1:30 p.m. Grizzlies game against the New Orleans Pelicans. Winning teams will also get a Jr. NBA trophy.

Also, on Sunday, Jan. 17, Rose, Haywood and Catchings will have a private tour of the National Civil Rights Museum. Media availability for the honorees will be at the conclusion of the tour. (A separate media advisory will be sent at a later date).

Following the tour, Rose and Catchings will join Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes and other special guests for a reception and discussion of topics at the intersection of race and sports, presented by FedEx. The reception for invited guests will begin at 4 p.m. and the discussion panel will follow starting at 4:30 p.m. and will be streamed live on The panel will be hosted by ESPN’s Mark Jones. This event is closed to the public. Media is invited to attend.

The event lineup will continue with the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Sports Legacy Symposium, presented by the Hyde Family Foundation, from 12-1 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 18 in the Grizzlies Built Ford Tough Training Facility at FedExForum. The symposium, emceed by Grizzlies television play-by-play announcer Pete Pranica, will feature Rose, Haywood and Catchings who will share their stories and their unique experiences about their contributions to civil and human rights in the spirit of Dr. King. The symposium will be streamed live on

Tip-off to the Grizzlies vs. Pelicans MLK Jr. matchup is at 1:30 p.m., with the National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award Ceremony also broadcasting live on ESPN. The ceremony will present the honorees with the 11th Annual Sports Legacy Award presented by FedEx.