Brown Impacts Fans, Teammates with Heartfelt MLK Speech

BOSTON – Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown has delivered a number of powerful moments on the court this season, oftentimes in the form of an emphatic dunk or an explosive drive to the rim.

Monday night, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, he showed that he can also make an influential impact off the court in the form of words.

As the Celtics were preparing to tip off against the Charlotte Hornets, Brown emerged from Boston’s bench holding a microphone. The young forward, wearing a Martin Luther King-themed t-shirt, slowly strode out to center court and asked for the crowd’s attention.

“On this Monday, on behalf of my teammates, the Celtics organization, and the NBA, we want to take this day to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King,” the 20-year-old articulately stated. “His vision and his quotes are still inspiring and impacting people to this day.”

Brown went on to speak to the crowd for 90 seconds on the importance of observing MLK Day. He thoughtfully inserted a few of his favorite Dr. King quotes, and the crowd responded to each with thunderous applause:

“The day we choose to be silent about the things that matter is the day our life ends.” … “Choose love not hate. Hate is too much of a burden.” … “We have to continue to push forward as people. If we can’t fly, then run. If we can’t run, then walk. If we can’t walk, then crawl. But we have to continue to push forward.”

Brown’s speech was so powerful that it was still a hot topic of conversation three hours later, after the Celtics walked off the floor with a 108-98 win over the Hornets.

“We could talk all day about how Martin Luther King impacted us but it still wouldn’t do justice,” Brown said as he stood in the Celtics locker room after the game. “I just wanted to do my part and express how me and my teammates feel about the great Martin Luther King and everything he and that generation and the people around him did for us.”

Shortly before tip-off, the Celtics asked Brown if he would address the crowd about the importance of observing MLK Day. The young forward agreed without hesitation, and it turned out that the team couldn’t have chosen a more knowledgeable representative to speak on the matter.

“It’s an honor to be chosen to commemorate someone like Martin Luther King and represent my team and represent the NBA and the Celtics organization,” said Brown, who tallied nine points, two rebounds and two assists Monday night. “I’ve been celebrating this day for a long time. I’ve been studying and appreciating Martin Luther King and everything he’s done for a while, so when they asked me I was actually excited.”

Brown said he had very little time to prepare his address, so he spoke completely from his heart. And that was no issue for him, seeing as he was already well versed on the topic.

Brown grew up 20 minutes away from Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Dr. King served as a pastor. His high school basketball coach used to take him and his teammates to the church once per year to educated them on King’s impact on the Civil Rights Movement.

When he got to college, Brown’s interest on the topic continued to grow. He took a student activism course last year as a freshman at Cal-Berkeley, and he says the knowledge gained from that class aided him Monday night as he wracked his brain for impactful quotes.

“I actually wrote a paper about something similar to the Civil Rights Movement,” said Brown, “so I just remembered those quotes.”

The crowd and the media weren’t the only ones impressed by Brown’s speech; Brad Stevens was also affected by the rookie's words as he listened with pride from Boston’s bench.

“I thought it was great,” said Stevens. “He went a little bit over his allotted time, I think, but I wish he would’ve kept going because I thought he did a terrific job capturing what I think we all feel. I thought it was extremely eloquently done.”

Brown’s veteran teammates were also appreciative that he stepped in and vocalized himself so well on their behalf.

“It was very mature,” said 30-year-old big man Al Horford. “Jaylen is a very smart guy and I felt like everyone in the arena felt it and everybody felt good about what he had to say.”

Brown’s maturity has been a major talking point this season, whether it’s regarding his veteran-like work ethic on the court, or his philosophical demeanor off the court.

The latter was displayed in full view Monday night in front of a packed TD Garden, as Brown delivered perhaps his most impactful performance as a pro thus far.