When choosing the theme of ‘Celebrating Black Game Changers’ in honor of Black History Month, the LA Clippers didn’t need to look very far. One of the biggest trailblazers in the league is on their own roster.
Robert Covington brought a decade of league experience and an All-Defensive First Team nod to the Clippers last season, but his value extends far beyond the court.
He’s one of 51 league-bound HBCU graduates, alongside legends such as Bob Love and Earl Monroe, and is the only active player in the NBA from an HBCU.
For Covington, being a Black Game Changer isn’t just about his own journey, it’s also about the people who guided him along the way.
“Someone that looks at you [as] more than just [an] individual that can do things for them. They love to see your demeanor. They love to see the accolades for you,” Covington told NBA.com when describing what qualities define a Black Game Changer.
“They’re saying you’ll be successful, pushing you to really bring the best out of you, and sharing knowledge. Those are the biggest things that take a real game changer to the next level. Without them doing those type of things in my life and being there to support [me], I wouldn’t be where I am.”
Covington credits his parents and college basketball coach at Tennessee State John Cooper for preparing him for success both on and off the basketball court.
“What prepared me for the league was the fact that my coach really brought [out] the best in me,” Covington remarked on Cooper, who led his Tennessee State team from 2009 to 2012.
Believing in him was the main factor for Covington. “It really tested me, really pushed me to [the] limit. And just being there for me as a supporter.”
The sentiment mirrors those of the coaches from this year’s HBCU Classic between Southern University and Grambling State University.
“We’re basketball coaches but more importantly we’re Black men, and we’re educating black men every day. Our goal is to make sure these young men are ready for the real world,” Donte Jackson, head coach of the Grambling State men’s basketball team said.
The coaches spoke of the game as a paradigm of familial values: it builds a brotherhood. “Basketball to these kids is a family. That’s your family,” said Southern University coach Sean Woods.
The community was a crucial part of what made Covington’s four years at Tennessee State unique, making his time there something he’d never change, he said.
“The level of love at an HBCU instilled a lot of core values in us,” Covington said in a video the Clippers released this month. “Going to an HBCU is the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“Going to an HBCU is the best thing to ever happen to me”
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) February 2, 2023
What makes Covington a Black Game Changer, a visionary, and a leader for those that now follow in his footsteps? You could say it’s the people in his life who knew he was destined to be where he is now that prove the real game changer is more than the individual, but the group that fuels the fire.
“I’ve had a village that has been there to help me throughout life,” Covington shared. “A major game changer is that I had a real support system behind me. That community is what it takes.”
To learn more about how the Clippers are ‘Celebrating Black Game Changers’ in the LA community, click here.