ATLANTA — It is a common question asked of uncommon athletes.
If they could meet one person, from the present or the past, who would it be?
Monday evening, the Miami Heat will play the Atlanta Hawks in the city where King was born 85 years ago. In light of that, this seemed to be the appropriate time to ask the stars and some of their teammates another short, simple, but equally significant question.
Given 10 minutes with the civil rights leader (who was killed in 1968), what would they say?
Some answered swiftly.
Others needed to pause and ponder.
In some cases, their replies offered a peek into themselves.
In all cases, it seemed as if 10 minutes would not suffice.
Here's what they offered, unprepared and unfiltered.
"How did he have the strength to do the things that he was doing in such a time and place of segregation? How was he able to march and lead and tell his dreams and tell his stories in places you weren't, you weren't supposed to be? You know, in the South. Deep in the South, he was doing it. I would want to know, how did you work up that courage, how did you know you had that gift?"
"I know that to be the first to do something, to step out on a limb, you have to have courage to do it. I would want to know how scared he was to be that person, to take that stand. Non-violent, just wanting to be different. And a lot of us are scared to do what we want to do because of what other people may say or what other people may do. He wasn’t.
"But I would want to know: Was he afraid, was he nervous, was he scared for his family? All those kind of questions would come, because it was a tough situation he was in. We would talk for a long time. All kind of questions. I got all kind of questions for the man."
"At first, I think I’d let him talk. I probably wouldn’t say a word. The only question I’d ask him is why, why, why? Sometimes that’s the biggest word in the world. You know, why he did what he did, why he had his philosophies, in a non-violent way, because the first thing when somebody does violence to you, you want to retaliate.
"And he didn’t teach that message, he led by example, and I just want to know why he would do that against guys who didn’t see eye to eye with you? And that’s OK. But they were violent. But it takes a very, very, very mature and a very big person to…you know, he had to have been from another world or something, man. It’s just remarkable."
"I don’t know if I would ask anything. I think I would be more listening to his experiences and the way he grew up, and the speeches he’s given, and the way he’s inspired people. Questions are probably the last thing you want to ask. You want to see what type of knowledge he has, and how he lives his everyday life.
"Obviously, he does a lot of motivational speeches, so I’d be looking for that motivational speech more than anything. Sometimes you’ve got to sit back and listen, instead of talking ahead of yourself. Listening is a big key to learning."
"Was he not afraid? He was doing something that was very unpopular, so was he afraid? And if he was afraid, how did he continue to push forward, and sacrifice his own life and his family? To hear him talk about that and what he went through. Because that, in essence, ended up being his job, so did he sacrifice ultimately his life for his job and for the betterment of all people?
"You know, in our small little ways, it kind of helps us get through our day, because we know we got to be better than who we are as individuals, we’ve got to be better for everybody around us. So I’d be curious to hear how he got up every day and got motivated to continue to do what he did, and fight the good fight, even when he knew everybody was around for him and at some point, it was going to cost him his life.
"And I even think, similar to Malcolm X, it almost seemed like they were in harm’s way all the time and that something bad potentially could happen. So when you know that, how do you just continue? Most people would say, 'you know what, it’s not worth it, back away, it’s not worth your life.' But he believed it was."
"I mean, how did it feel? How did it feel to be able to bring so many people together, and still be hated by so many people, but loved by so many people? And to have faith in something that you don’t know if you’ll ever get to see that dream ever really be fulfilled—but to have that faith that you can spark the beginning of it. Or just to have faith that you can be the start of something that had never been done before, had never been seen before, and so many people were against.
"What gave you the courage to be the one? Because I’m sure that everybody had that idea in their head, everybody wanted to be the one, everybody said this should be different, that should be different, but not many people had the courage to go out there and try to make the difference. So what gave you the courage to be the one to make the difference? And how did it feel to be the one going through something like that, and not knowing if you will ever see those dreams manifest, knowing that this could cost you your life? How did it feel? What was his thought process, what was he feeling?
"I know that’s a whole lot of stuff. But if I’m sitting at the table, I’m like, wow, how did it feel going through it, what inspired you to be the one to make a difference, on a large scale, not a small scale, but on a large scale? What inspired you? Why you? Why did you choose to be the one to step forward?"
"Where does your dream end? What’s the end game? Is there one? What does it look like? What will make you say, you know what, my dream is realized? And mean it?"