Nike and LeBron James just announced a partnership to sponsor the uniforms of Florida A&M University's sports teams and marching band. Starting July 1, 2021, 14 teams of the FAMU Rattlers and the band will wear James-branded gear. James walks into All-Star locker room wearing James-branded gear with FAMU colors. Photo credit: NBA and Twitter account of NBA.

HBCUs take center stage at NBA’s All Star Game

Continuing to advocate for Black institutions, NBA players bring more exposure, resources to HBCUs during All-Star Weekend.

From the design of the basketball court to the half-time performance, the annual NBA All Star Weekend this year honors the legacy of HBCUs. Taking place in Atlanta, the event centers institutions with a legacy of educating African Americans when Predominantly White Institutions refused their admittance through generations segregation.

To highlight how the NBA directly benefits from HBCUs, players and NBA staff who graduated have been prominent in the festivities. Tennessee State University alumnus, Robert Covington, who plays for the Portland Trailblazers, is using his platform to highlight HBCUs. Though Covington is the only active NBA player from a historically Black college, Chris Paul, one of this year’s All-Star guards, is also bringing awareness. Paul, who started at Wake Forest, but dropped out to play pro-ball, is finishing his degree at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina. 

Along with the players, the game officials, Tom Washington, Tony Brown and Courtney Kirkland all are HBCU graduates.

NBA All Star referrees who are HBCU alumni.

| Watch: Who have we become? When pandemic and protests shuttered the US, how did we transform? HBCUs, economies and relationships

Leading up to the event, several key figures expressed concern and dismay about the games during a time the US still struggles with lowering COVID-19 infections. LA Lakers captain and NBA influencer, Lebron James called the game a “slap in the face” after NBA executives announced that the event would happen.

“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year. I don’t even understand why we’re having an All-Star Game,” said James.

Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is also not too enthused with the event. Concerned that the All Star game will be a public health nightmare, in a statement, Mayor Bottoms urged NBA fans to skip visiting the city for the event, the NBA and its players.

Reportedly, the NBA shared its health and safety protocols before the game. Some of the plans implemented allow a limited number of family to attend the game, private transportation and daily COVID testing.

The NBA says that the game will generate $3 million for HBCUs, through donations to scholarship funds. The Thurgood Marshall College Fund and United Negro College Fund will collect and distribute donations.

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