Monday marks the 36th anniversary of the NBA’s tradition of holding games on MLK Day, a federal holiday that honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The league has been celebrating MLK Day with a slate of basketball games since 1986, and this year will be no different. The NBA has 12 games scheduled to be played Monday, beginning with a matchup between the Pelicans and Celtics at 12:30 pm ET.

While many NBA teams will speak on MLK Day, the holiday has special meaning for the Grizzlies and Hawks.

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Why do the Grizzlies and Hawks always play NBA games on MLK Day?

The Atlanta Hawks connection to MLK

King was born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929. He grew up in the city and attended Booker T. Washington High School and Morehouse College. Given that connection, MLK Day is of tremendous importance to Atlanta and the Hawks franchise.

Since 1994, the team has typically hosted games on MLK Day with only a few exceptions. This year, the Hawks will face the Bucks in a rematch of the 2023 Eastern Conference finals.

The Memphis Grizzlies connection to MLK

On April 4, 1968, King, who was in Memphis to support a sanitation workers’ strike, was assassinated while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. That site is now home to the National Civil Rights Museum, which is not far from the FedEx Forum, the Grizzlies’ home stadium.

Every year since 2003, the Grizzlies have played a game on MLK Day. Before their matchup with the Bulls, the Grizzlies and the National Civil Rights Museum hosted “The Intersection of Race and Sports,” a virtual discussion focused on issues affecting black athletes.

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NBA schedule on MLK Day 2023

Play Time (ET) national television
Pelicans vs. Celtics 12:30 pm
Hornets vs. Knicks 13:00 NBA television
76ers vs wizards 14:00
Nets vs. Cavaliers 15:00
Bulls vs. Grizzlies 3:30 pm TNT
Pacers vs. Clippers 3:30 pm
dollars against hawks 18:00 TNT
Trail Blazers vs. Magic 19:00
raptors against heat 7:30 pm
Thunder vs. Mavericks 8:30 pm
Suns vs. Spurs 8:30 pm
Jazz vs. Lakers 10:30 pm NBA television