The Jr. NBA Court of Leaders recently visited Washington, D.C., and participated in several activities and events that offered a wealth of knowledge and insight into important topics. Among the events they took in were a Utah Jazz vs. Washington Wizards home game, a tour of the White House and visits to the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
While the 12 student-athletes in the program left with memories that will last a lifetime at each stop, there was one destination — because of the education it provided — that had the teenagers buzzing.
“Out of all the museums we went to, the Holocaust Memorial Museum was my favorite,” said Jr. NBA Court of Leaders member Caleb Gaskins. “I saw different stuff I didn’t know [about]. I’m not really a big history guy. Seeing that stuff made me interested.”
Olivia Olson was quick to agree.
“There isn’t a lot of stuff like that where I’m from,” said Olson, who is from St. Louis Park, Minn. “It was really interactive. They made it interesting for us to learn about new stuff. It’s important for our generation to learn about the Holocaust and what happened in the past so stuff like that doesn’t happen again.”
The Jr. NBA Court of Leaders is a youth leadership council comprised of high school basketball players from around the country. The goal is to help young adults learn how to amplify their voices not only in their local communities, but also across the basketball landscape.
Court of Leaders are paired with mentors from the NBA, WNBA and G League, and the program offers life skills and focuses on career readiness and community impact.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which is located in Washington, is America’s national memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. It is dedicated to ensuring the permanence of the Holocaust and understanding its relevance. Through the power of Holocaust history, the museum challenges leaders and individuals worldwide to think about their role in society and to confront antisemitism and other forms of hate.
“There is so much history built into the museum,” Olson said. “Everything there was part of history. The lobby had a weird shape and stuff. The tour guide explained that was how the people built it because they wanted to create an isolated feeling and uncertainty. That’s what the people in the Holocaust felt and how they were being treated.
It’s important for everyone to be in that feeling. You can go into the exhibits and see what they went through. I got a better feeling of what Jewish people went through during the Holocaust.”
The members of the Jr. NBA Court of Leaders aren’t the only ones who understand the value of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
NBA legend and Hall of Famer Ray Allen is a former board member of the museum and shared his thoughts on it.
“Throughout my life I have tried to be someone who bridges gaps between people of different walks of life and, to me, this museum serves to do that through education,” Allen said. “It serves as a significant reminder of horrific events that should never happen again, and a lesson about prejudice that resonates not just with the Jewish community, but with people from all backgrounds. While learning from the Holocaust, it is not my aim to marginalize any other atrocity or genocide propagated against any other ethnicity or race.
“The museum aims to be an institution that brings people together to learn, while showing an intolerance towards racism, anti-Semitism or hate of any kind, towards any person.”
Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma said he feels it is important for all NBA players to have access to the museum.
“I think the Holocaust Museum was a place that really gave me more illustration and history on what happened to European Jews,” Kuzma said. “I think you just get a better understanding of what was actually happening to Jews and you also see the strength and perseverance as a community to rise above it all in our society today.”
Those sentiments are felt around the league. Early in 2022, the NBA became a corporate partner of the museum and will now expand this relationship to support its youth education and outreach programs as well as provide opportunities for NBA players, coaches and team and league staff to tour the museum.
“NBA teams have made the museum a visiting destination for many years,” said Cara Sodos, who is the museum’s Director, Corporate and Foundation Relations. “We thank the NBA for their corporate support and the chance to work together to reach younger generations, which couldn’t be more timely and important. It is young students and adults who will carry the truth of the Holocaust — its history and lessons — into the future.”
For more information, visit ushmm.org.