- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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"I think that we're fortunate," Nets veteran Jerry Stackhouse said. "We play in a city where one of the pioneers who transcended sports played in Jackie Robinson. And now we'll get the chance to honor a guy who transcended the world in his belief in equality and things like that. It's a great thing. Every year about this time, you get a warm feeling for being able to do what we do.
"Right when I was born, in the early 1970s, that was when the transition really started, so fortunately for us, we haven't been able to experience all the people right before us went through. A lot has changed in a short amount of time, but with some of the issues we have in this society, we've got a long ways to go. So I think his message is more important today than it ever was."
Stackhouse, 38, thinks many young NBA players take for granted the league and the opportunities they have been provided -- opportunities made possible by the sacrifices of others.
"We take so much for granted as young players, we just think that the league has been here forever and thrived forever, and it hasn't. We've come a long way," Stackhouse said. "In the early '80s, we almost lost the NBA. I think understanding the history of our game, understanding the history of our country and how far we've come in a short time, you become more conscious.
"I think from the time I came in the league 18 years ago, I had a chance to mature and become a little more aware and a little more conscious of things around me other than the game of basketball. And that's why I'm able to speak from the heart about what really matters. Being in the game is great, but being able to pay homage to someone who set the tone and gave his life for the cause is a great thing."
Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, 63, recalled touring the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn., when he was an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs.
"They let us literally go right in the Lorraine Motel and stand right there," Carlesimo said about the motel where King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. "I remember vividly when that happened, so it's a part of history that is more meaningful to me than the stuff you read in the books. Martin Luther King was a real person for us growing up; we were aware of him and what he stood for.
"I think it's great the way the league honors the holiday; it's become a very very meaningful day in the NBA. remember when it first started, and if anything it acquires more and more significance each year.
"And the Knicks have been fortunate, because I think if I read the stat right, they've been the home team for about 20 or 18 of these, something like that. It looks like it must be a tradition on Martin Luther King Day that they host a home game; maybe in the future we'll get to host one, too."