It’s hard to argue this week-long road trip with stops in Mexico City and Memphis hasn’t been a good team-bonding experience for the Miami Heat.
On Sunday, the team’s day off, a handul of players — including Justise Winslow, Kelly Olynyk, rookie Bam Adebayo and captains Udonis Haslem and Goran Dragic — joined coach Erik Spoelstra and the coaching staff in a tour of the National Civil Rights Museum in downtown Memphis. The tour included the Lorraine Hotel, where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
Spoelstra said that it “left a lasting impression” — on him and everybody involved.
“We thought about doing it last year and it didn’t work out,” Spoelstra said. “It’s a remarkable museum. It’s only five blocks away from the hotel. It’s a great perspective for the guys on the team of what a great man and what great people did in a different generation to really force change, the sacrifices that they made. What Martin Luther King did cost him his life. The climate right now is pretty flammable and you can see that you can still make change, but you can do it in a different way and everybody can have a responsibility to do something about it.”
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The Heat, in a show of unity and in protest of social injustice, has locked arms during the national anthem for every game since last season. Sunday’s visit — and a team photo outside the Lorraine Hotel with players and coaches once again locking arms — only strengthened that bond, Adebayo said.
“We care about each other. Black, white, purple, green, we don’t care — we judge each other by character,” Adebayo said of the photo the team took Sunday and the message that the Heat is trying to send when it locks arms before a game. “We love one another by our character. It’s how we justify each other.”
It was the second time Winslow said he had visited the museum.
“It’s important to me,” he said. “I try to be conscious of our society and our culture and everything going on around me. The biggest thing that kind of hit me [Sunday] is we are only about 50 years out of the Civil Rights movement and the Civil Rights Act of 1965. It’s been a while, but at the same time in the grand scheme of things, it really hasn’t been that long. Some good things have happened, but still strides need to be made. A lot of the history, I wouldn’t say I’m proud of but just people taking a stand in what they believe is key in any culture, anywhere around the world. So I learned a lot [Sunday].”
Other Heat players such as Josh Richardson, who played at the University of Tennessee and has family in Memphis, and James Johnson, who played for the Grizzlies, decided to skip the visit because they’ve been there so many times before. Johnson instead went to get a haircut at Christyles barber shop. Johnson said that every time he gets a haircut at the barber shop, he pays his respects to King Jr.
“The dream he had allowed us is the dream we’re dreaming now,” Johnson said. “That’s a big deal to us and should be a big deal. The guys who got to see it for the first time, they really appreciated it. Monuments like that, they give you the chills.”
Dion Waiters, who celebrated his 26th birthday Sunday, said he skipped the visit to the museum because it gets him too emotional.
“I’m a big fan of learning about the history and things like that, especially Dr. Martin Luther King. I think I’ve seen and read just about every book and seen just about every movie,” Waiters said. “Sometimes you don’t want to go see it. Sometimes it’s depressing for me. It’s like emotional. I’ve been there several times. So you learn a lot about it, but man, it’s just depressing some times.”