Grizzlies to honor Grant Hill, Steve Smith and Lisa Leslie as part of 15th Annual MLK Jr. Celebration Game

MEMPHIS — On Sunday, Jan. 15, the Memphis Grizzlies, National Civil Rights Museum, City of Memphis and Shelby County will host the 15th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Game, presented by AutoZone, in a nationally-televised contest on ESPN vs. the Chicago Bulls at 8 p.m.  The celebration game events will also include the annual symposium and three other events to remember, celebrate and act on the legacy left by Dr. King with this year’s honorees of the 12th Annual National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award.  Associate celebration and game sponsors include The Hyde Family Foundations, Ashley Homestore, Memphis Area Ford Dealers and Coors Light.

This year’s honorees of the 12th Annual National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award feature a star-studded lineup of NBA and WNBA greats: Grant Hill, Steve Smith and the second-ever female honoree, Lisa Leslie*. All will be honored during the MLK Jr. Celebration Day events, including the newly renamed Earl Lloyd Sports Legacy Symposium presented by the Hyde Family Foundations on Jan. 15, 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. 

Tip-off to the Grizzlies vs. Bulls MLK Jr. matchup is at 8 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 Sports Legacy Award.  This year’s MLK Jr. halftime ceremony will be presented by Memphis Area Ford Dealers, broadcast live on ESPN, and will include a MLK Jr. Tribute video and live music from Grammy-nominated artist, Gallant.

Also that evening, the Grizzlies will debut their MLK50 Pride uniforms in primetime to a nationally-televised audience, tipping-off the National Civil Rights Museum’s upcoming remembrance of the 50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. In collaboration with adidas, and inspired by the storied history of The Lorraine Motel, the uniform’s use of iconic imagery, color and design is intended to bring greater awareness to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, and the museum’s mission to drive a deeper understanding of the history behind the ongoing movement forward for social justice that defined Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in life and in death. For more information on the uniform and its roots please visit grizzlies.com.

The Grizzlies’ Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration events tip-off by recognizing January as National Mentoring Month. Grizzlies Prep Ambassador Vince Carter will participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Summit at Grizzlies Preparatory Charter School on Monday, Jan. 9 at approximately 4 p.m.. Carter will be joined by four youth mentors and other special guests along with Grizzlies Prep scholars for a roundtable conversation about the challenges facing urban youth in their own words. The event will be hosted by Grizzlies Partner, Foundation Board Chair and Grizzlies Prep Mentor Elliot Perry. Grizzlies Prep is the Memphis Grizzlies’ namesake charter school in downtown Memphis, serving 6-8th grade middle school boys with the tools necessary to develop a strong educational foundation that will better serve them for the rigors of high school and higher education. This event will be streamed live on grizzlies.com and is closed to the public. Media is invited to attend.

Together, The Grizzlies and the Jr. NBA, the League’s official youth basketball program, will conduct a 3-on-3 MLK Jr. NBA Tournament on Saturday, Jan. 14 from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. at Rhodes College. The tournament is open to boys and girls in grades 5-8. The Jr. NBA teaches the fundamentals and the values of the game at the grassroots level to help improve the youth basketball experience for all. Also featured at the event will be a one-hour panel conversation with NBA & WNBA legends and local law enforcement about the Grizzlies’ P.A.L. initiative held between approximately 12-1 p.m. Finalists from each division of the 3-on-3 MLK Jr. NBA Tournament will be treated to an NBA experience.  Championship games will be held on the main court at FedExForum on Sunday, Jan. 15 from 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. In addition, all teams that qualify for the finals will receive game tickets for players and coaches to the 8 p.m. Grizzlies vs. Bulls game.  Winning teams will also get a Jr. NBA trophy. Registration is currently open from now until January 12.   The entry fee is $20 per team and pre-registration is required, so visit www.JrNBA.com/Tournament before space is gone.

Also, on Saturday, Jan. 14, Hill, Smith and Leslie will 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, Hill, Smith and Leslie will join Grizzlies Head Coach David Fizdale, Marc Spears from ESPN’s The Undefeated and other special guests for a reception, presented by Coors Light, and discussion of topics at the intersection of race and sports. The reception for invited guests will begin at 4 p.m. and the discussion panel will follow starting at 5 p.m. and will be streamed live on grizzlies.com. The panel will be hosted by ESPN’s Mark Jones. This event will be streamed live on grizzlies.com and is closed to the public. Media is invited to attend.

Celebration events will continue on Sunday, Jan. 15 with the Martin Luther King Jr. High School Classic, presented by Ashley Homestore, between the Whitehaven High Tigers and Bartlett Panthers on the main court at FedExForum. The High School Classic will tip-off at 3:30 p.m. and admission to the game is free with a ticket to the Grizzlies vs. Bulls game.

In addition, before the symposium and celebration game, a Martin Luther King Jr. NBA Coaches’ Forum & Reception will be held in the Draft Room at FedExForum on Sunday, Jan. 15, from 4-6 p.m. Participants include Smith, former NBA player Jason Collins and former WNBA player Jennifer Azzi, along with invited coaches who participate in Grizzlies youth basketball programs. The forum is designed to engage coaches as positive influencers and to equip them with tools to develop young athletes of character.

The event lineup will continue with the Earl Lloyd Sports Legacy Symposium, presented by the Hyde Family Foundations, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 15 in the Grizzlies Built Ford Tough Training Facility at FedExForum. The symposium, emceed by Grizzlies television play-by-play announcer Pete Pranica, will feature Hill, Smith and Leslie who will share their unique stories and experiences about their contributions to civil and human rights in the spirit of Dr. King. The symposium will be steamed live on grizzlies.com. While admission is free to the symposium with the purchase of a ticket to the Grizzlies vs. Bulls game, space is limited. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Starting this year, the symposium will be renamed in memory of Lloyd as recognition of both his legacy as a pioneer in sports, being the first African-American player to play in an NBA game on October 31, 1950, and as the first recipient of the National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy award in Memphis in January 2005. Lloyd’s son Kevin Lloyd will be on hand and recognized both at the symposium and during the celebration game to commemorate this honor posthumously.

To conclude the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, the entire roster of Grizzlies players and coaches will participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service presented by AutoZone from 11:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 16. The team will provide, prepare and serve a holiday meal to over 200 homeless and families in need through a partnership with Memphis Union Mission, the largest homeless shelter in the city. A separate media advisory will be sent closer to the event with additional details.

Fans who want to support the Memphis Grizzlies by purchasing ticket to the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Game can do so now by calling (901) 888-HOOP or going online to grizzlies.com. Also MLK50 Pride uniform and other inspired gear is now available for purchase in the Grizzlies Den by adidas and online at grizzliesstore.com. Tickets for all games are available for purchase at all Ticketmaster locations, Ticketmaster.com, the FedExForum Box Office, online at grizzlies.com or by calling 1-800-4NBA-TIX or (901) 888-HOOP.

The push-and-pull that drives Gallant’s music is like a pendulum swinging back and forth between genres and influences.  His combination of muscular vocal acrobatics and sonic unpredictability has attracted universal tastemaker praise and a growing global fan base. Complex championed the Los Angeles-based singer and songwriter as “The R&B game changer,” LA Times claimed, “Precise writing of Frank Ocean, big vocal runs of Sam Smith,” and NME predicted, “the voice that will redefine R&B,” while Entertainment Weekly, The Fader, Billboard, LA Weekly, and more have shown support. Sir Elton John summed it up best saying, “Gallant is gonna be huge.”  Now, the artist is nominated for his first ever Grammy alongside Beyonce & Rihanna.  He continues questioning, learning, and progressing on his full-length debut, Ology [Mind of a Genius/Warner Bros. Records].

NBA Inside Stuff co-host Grant Hill will be honored at this year’s events, celebrating his 18-year NBA career (1994-2013) that featured seven NBA All-Star appearances and one selection to the All-NBA First Team in 1997. Hill starred for the Detroit Pistons while also playing for the Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers. As the 3rd overall pick of the 1994 NBA Draft by the Pistons, Hill helped turn the corner for Duke University in its rise as a national powerhouse. During his four years as a Blue Devil, Duke won the first two national titles in school history (1991, 1992) and returned to the national title game in 1994 during Hill’s senior season. As a senior, Hill was named the 1994 ACC Player of the Year and a 1994 Consensus first team All-American. In international play, Hill won a gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games with Team USA. Off the court, in 1999 Hill served as vice-chairman of the Special Olympics World Games. Two years later in 2001, Hill received the Rich and Helen DeVos Community Enrichment Award for his work in the Central Florida community as a member of the Orlando Magic. Additionally, Hill is very active and passionate about youth fitness and health. In 2010, President Barack Obama named Grant as a council member on the President's Council of Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. Hill is also involved with First Lady Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign, which provides access to nutritional and physical activity information and suggestions while also by providing opportunities for families to have access to healthy, affordable foods. In addition, Hill is part of the Atlanta Hawks’ ownership group.

NBA TV studio analyst Steve Smith enjoyed a 14-year NBA career (1991-2005) that featured one NBA All-Star appearance (1998) and time spent with the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Hornets and Charlotte Bobcats. In 2003, Smith helped the Spurs to their second NBA championship alongside future Hall-of-Famers Tim Duncan, David Robinson and current Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. Smith averaged over 20 points per game twice in his NBA career. Additionally, he won a gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games with Team USA and received the 2002 NBA Sportsmanship Award.  Smith spent four years at Michigan State (1987-1991) under legendary head coach Jud Heathcote. In addition to having his No. 21 retired by the Spartans, Smith left the school as its all-time leader in points scored (2,263) while ranking fourth all-time in assists (453) and fifth in rebounds (704). In 1991, he was named a Consensus second team All-American while earning third team All-American honors by the AP and UPI as a junior in 1990. Off the court, Smith received the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award. The award is given to a NBA player or coach who shows "outstanding service and dedication to the community." Smith is well known for his charitable pursuits and in 1997 he made a $2.5 million donation to his alma mater that helped fund the Clara Bell Smith Student Athlete Academic Center, named for his mother. It was the largest gift from a professional athlete to his or her university in history. In addition, Smith runs The Steve Smith Charitable Fund. It began as a benefit to those students from Steve’s alma mater, Detroit’s Pershing High School, who wished to attend Michigan State University and has since grown to meet broader needs in the communities that have supported Steve throughout his life.
One of the greatest women’s basketball players of all-time, Lisa Leslie enjoyed a 12-year WNBA career with the Los Angeles Sparks. Her on-court achievements at multiple levels have resulted in her induction to the Basketball Hall of Fame (2015) and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (2015). Leslie’s WNBA career boasts two championships in which she was named Finals MVP both years (2001, 2002), three MVP awards (2001, 2002, 2003), eight All-Star appearances and All-WNBA First Team honors and two WNBA Defensive Player of the Year selections (2004, 2008). Leslie also became the first woman to dunk in a professional basketball game. In addition, Leslie was named one of the WNBA’s Top 20@20 in 2016, referring the league’s Top 20 players of all-time chosen on the occasion of the WNBA’s 20th season. In international play, Leslie won four Olympic gold medals with Team USA (1996, 2000, 2004, 2008) and two FIBA World Championships gold medals (1998, 2002).  Off the court, Leslie became a co-owner of the Los Angeles Sparks in 2011 and also launched the Lisa Leslie Basketball and Leadership Academy, focused on benefitting both the player and the person. In 2008, she became an author and published her book ‘Don’t Let the Lipstick Fool You’, where in her own words, she points the spotlight onto her remarkable life off the court, where being a confident champion was not always simple. During the latter stage of her career she began the process of obtaining her business degree in the offseason of 2006. In 2009, shortly after her retirement, she finished her M.B.A. program at the University of Phoenix. In 2014, Leslie attended Super Bowl XLVII on behalf of the American Children’s Federation in hopes to bring awareness to parents who should have a choice of what school their kids to attend.