- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Knicks will celebrate Black History Month tonight against the New Jersey Nets.
The team will recognize pioneers who helped pave the way for past and future Knicks. Joe Lapchick, Nat Clifton and John Rucker will be recognized throughout the game for their achievements in what the team has dubbed "Pioneer Night" .
Here is more information on the celebration from the team:
Lapchick, the franchise's second head coach (1947-56), who played a pivotal role in the integration of the NBA and passed away in 1970, is the recipient of the Sweetwater Clifton "City Spirit" Award for the month of February. The award, named in honor of Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton, the first African-American to play for the Knicks, recognizes individuals who have made a significant difference in the lives of others. Each month, a winner is chosen by members of the Knicks front office staff and honored at center court during a Knicks game with a $2,000 donation on his or her behalf to a charity of the winner's choice. Lapchick will be represented by his son Richard and daughter Barbara.
Rucker, an Erasmus HS (Brooklyn) alum, was invited to Knicks training camp in Bear Mountain in 1950 to become the first African-American to wear a Knicks uniform. Although Clifton was the first African-American to appear in a game for the Knicks, Rucker preceded Clifton in camp by two weeks.
The franchise will also present the fourth annual Dick McGuire Knickerbocker Legacy Award to Assistant Coach Herb Williams, as the individual who exudes the qualities of what it means to be a Knickerbocker: Pride, Tradition & Class. Previous winners included: Dick McGuire (2009), Cal Ramsey (2010) and Mike Saunders (2011).
12dKevin Pelton and Chad Ford