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NBA commissioner visits Atlanta to see Hawks, honor King

NBA commissioner Adam Silver was in Atlanta for Martin Luther King Day Monday afternoon as the NBA celebrated the civil rights icon.

The Hawks lost the Magic in one of 11 games played in the league in the birthplace of King.

“It’s a very special day for me,” Silver said. “It’s particularly special to be here in the community in which he was born, and to have the opportunity to talk to Ambassador (Andrew) Young before the game.”

Silver sat in a suite with Young, who worked alongside and was friends with King. Young went on to become a congressman from Georgia,  Ambassador to the United Nations and mayor of Atlanta.

Silver did not see a vintage Hawks performance, but the distinguished guest did get a chance to take a look at what the young team is building toward in a new arena under a coach Lloyd Pierce. 

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“Coach Pierce is doing a wonderful job with this team. It requires a special coach to be able to manage those young players. He understands that the role of a coach in this league these days goes well beyond X’s and O’s on the floor. He has to build character and help young men mature,” Silver said of the first-year coach.

The NBA commissioner, an outspoken critic of tanking, mentioned that he does believe the Hawks are, in his words, “rebuilding.” He hopes that new rules that went into effect this year to decrease the lottery odds of bottom-three teams will make teams like Atlanta think twice about a long overhaul.

“We know because of how important draft picks are in this league, that teams are going to enter rebuilding mode. What we don’t want is for teams to stay in rebuilding mode for multiple years,” he said.

Silver also had kind words about the improvements to State Farm Arena. He complimented the presence of natural light, improved suites, and general innovation in the arena after his tour of the facility. 

At the end of his short media session, after spouting all the pleasantries about the Hawks and the league, Silver took a moment to reflect on the importance of MLK Day as a tradition the NBA carries like no other.

“This is something that started long before my time in the league,” Silver said. “Whenever I hear clips of King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, I think of the fact that Bill Russell was standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial when that speech was given. Community involvement and social activism is nothing new in this league.”

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