The images will spark different memories. At some point today, he will look down on his phone and see a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A clip from one of King’s speeches will play on his television. The players he coaches will slip on a shirt with the slain civil rights leader’s name.
When it happens, Utah Jazz assistant coach Antonio Lang will think about his own upbringing in Mobile, Alabama, where the fight for equality for black Americans meant snarling dogs, fire hoses turned on protesters, a church bombing that left four young children dead.
The Utah Jazz and the NBA will celebrate King’s legacy today, honoring a life spent fighting hate and discrimination. For Lang, King’s impact is lasting and personal.
“I’ve been fortunate,” Lang said. “I’ve been touched by a lot of people who paid a price for us to have the same rights that everyone else has in this country.”
Lang’s father attended junior college in Selma, Alabama, in the 1960s, and marched with King on more than one occasion.
“Until the last few years, I didn’t really know how dangerous it was,” Lang said. “You know, but not everything. People were shooting at them and he could hear the bullets go by his head.”
But from an early age, Lang gleaned important lessons from his father and mother, a civil rights activist in her home state of South Carolina.
“Over the years, they helped me learn more about who Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was,” Bailey said.
Bailey still has memories of the early days of desegregation in U.S. schools. By the time he graduated high school, he had become the first black student body president the school had ever had.
“That time of change and that fight for equality, those were the things Dr. Martin Luther King fought for,” Bailey said.
And it’s a fight that is still going on.
“It’s gotten a whole lot better, but we’ve got a long ways to go,” Lang said. “We’re all the same. It’s a shame we have so much division right now in our country because we’re all the same.