The NBA has traditionally embraced Martin Luther King Jr. Day by celebrating the esteemed civil rights leader with a full slate of games. Nothing has changed in 2013, with nine contests on tap beginning in the early afternoon and winding down late in the evening.
Things will get started in Memphis—the city where King was infamously assassinated and the location of our National Civil Rights Museum—when the Grizzlies take on the Pacers, and they conclude when the Wizards and Trail Blazers battle it out in Portland.
Let’s take a look at those two matchups and each one in between, plus a look at the television schedule, a quick preview for every game and more.
Indiana Pacers at Memphis Grizzlies, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN3
It seems these two franchises find a way to clash on holidays, as they last met on New Year's Eve. Fans now have this MLK Day showdown to look forward to.
Both fringe contenders will be fighting tooth and nail to score a victory here and continue building momentum for an eventual playoff run.
Keep an eye out for Memphis’ Rudy Gay—who's been a subject of numerous trade rumors leading up to the Feb. 21 deadline—and Indiana’s Paul George in this one.
Sacramento Kings at New Orleans Hornets, 1 p.m. ET, CSAC (SAC)
This game is likely to be far off in Kings fans' and players' minds, as the franchise was recently sold to a Seattle-based investor group, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein.
There’s a chance the organization winds up being relocated to the Emerald City and rebranded as the SuperSonics as early as next season, ending a 27-year run of basketball in Sacramento.
It’s unfortunate, but the Kings still have game to play against the up-and-coming Hornets this Monday. We expect it might be a bit lopsided in NOLA’s favor after all the chaos the Kings organization is facing.
Houston Rockets at Charlotte Bobcats, 2 p.m. ET, CSN (HOU), FSCR (CHA)
The Rockets are clearly the favorite going into this one, with likely All-Star reserve James Harden leading the way.
However, things aren’t going to be that simple for Houston, as the ‘Cats will provide some semblance of opposition as long as superstar sophomore Kemba Walker is on the floor.
Don’t count Charlotte out of this one yet, as it could be a much closer contest than it looks on paper.
Minnesota Timberwolves at Atlanta Hawks, 2 p.m. ET, TSOH (ATL)
The T-Wolves were supposed to make a playoff push at the end of 2012-13, while many wrote off the Hawks prior to the season tipoff.
It seems the roles have been reversed with half the campaign already in the books, as the Hawks ended their losing streak and are just five games off the Eastern Conference lead.
On the other hand, Minnesota has been decimated by injury and is struggling to keep up with the pace with the Western Conference contenders.
Hopefully the T-Wolves stars can get healthy in time to make a serious run in the late spring, but we’re taking ATL in this Martin Luther King Jr. Day battle.
Brooklyn Nets at New York Knicks, 3:30 p.m. ET, NBATV
This budding rivalry will once again be broadcast to a national audience, as the Nets look to even the season series at two games apiece.
Remember, the recently relocated Nets took out the Knicks early on in the season in an OT thriller, while the Manhattan-based squad got its revenge in the second and third showdown.
This time, it’s anyone’s game and we foresee both Atlantic Division rivals scrapping to get a win on this prestigious holiday.
Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors, 4 p.m. ET, FSW2 (LAC), CBHD (GSW)
Just a couple of years ago, it would have been preposterous to think that these teams would be two of the best in the West and serious contenders to represent the conference in the NBA Finals.
That’s become a reality as a plethora of young and athletic stars have come into their own and are now making some real noise atop the standings.
If you own league pass or live in the local television market, consider this a can't-miss contest.
San Antonio Spurs at Philadelphia 76ers, 7 p.m. ET, TNT
This would have been a much more appealing game if Andrew Bynum were healthy.
Unfortunately, the Sixers star is still sidelined with a knee injury that has kept him out for the duration of the 2012-13 campaign, and it doesn’t seem like he will be back anytime soon.
It appears we have a one-sided matchup on our hands for the first leg of TNT’s nationally televised double-header in honor of Dr. King.
Los Angeles Lakers at Chicago Bulls, 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT
After putting together a two-game win streak early last week, the Lakers are once again slipping and have lost the past two contests—including one to the lowly Toronto Raptors.
The Bulls represent another tough roadblock on L.A.’s path to the postseason, but the Southern California-based club might just luck out.
Chicago has been involved in three overtime contests over the past six nights, including back-to-back extra-time games on Friday and Saturday. We’re not sure the Bulls have the athleticism or adequate rest to hang with a run-and-gun team like the Lakers after so much basketball in such little time.
Regardless, we know Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and his defensive-minded unit will make it tough for Kobe Bryant and the Lakers to sneak past in this one.
Washington Wizards at Portland Trail Blazers, 10 p.m. ET, CSNB (WAS), CSNN (POR)
The Wizards have been one of the most sporadic teams in the NBA this year, losing to nearly everyone at anytime but pulling out miraculous wins against some of the NBA’s best.
Washington has a notable W over the Trail Blazers, which came all the way back on Nov. 28. It’ll be interesting to see whether Portland can avenge that shortcoming, or whether it simply doesn't match up well with Washington.
Whatever happens, we’ll certainly be ready for bed as the final horn sounds and an exhausting day of NBA action on Martin Luther King Jr. Day finally concludes.