LeBron James, Doc Rivers, others in NBA family react to death of John Lewis

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John Lewis, one of the leaders of the civil rights movement in America and a long-time congressman, died Friday at the age of 80.

That has hit some in the NBA hard.

“I’ll tell you a quick story,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Saturday in a Zoom conference with reporters. “I was young, I was playing for the Hawks, and I got to know Andy Young really well, and Andrew was running for governor, and I went on a campaign trip with John Lewis and Andy Young. Just think about that, I was a — I don’t know, 26 maybe, 27. I don’t know how old I was. And we flew to Albany, Georgia, of all places, and Andrew Young gave a speech at an all-white church, and he was fantastic. It was an absolutely amazing speech. The crowd was going crazy.

“We get on the plane, and we’re talking, and Andrew Young turns to me and said — he used to call me Young Doc. He says, Young Doc, what did you think about the speech, and I jokingly said, Well, Mr. Young, I thought the speech was great, but I don’t think you’re getting one vote from that church, and everybody started laughing. John Lewis piped in and says, well, we’re not trying to get all of them, we’re just trying to get one at a time, and eventually it will be all of them. I thought that was just one powerful statement.”

Rivers was far from the only person in NBA circles remembering Lewis on Saturday.

“The Atlanta Hawks mourn the loss of Congressman John Lewis,” the Hawks said in a statement. “Last night, our city and country lost one of its heroes and most important civil rights icons who was highly regarded for his nearly six decades of social activism and getting into ‘good trouble’. He continued to inspire so many with his courage, sacrifice and unwavering dedication to the highest ethical standards and moral principles. His legacy will forever be remembered throughout the city’s peaceful protests to fight racial inequality in the 1960s, and our nation will be forever indebted to him for his lifelong dedication to public service. The entire Hawks organization sends their deepest condolences to Mr. Lewis’ family and his friends.”

The NBA also released a statement:

“The NBA Family mourns the passing of Rep. John Lewis, a great American hero and icon of the civil rights movement and the fight for equality who helped galvanize opposition to racial segregation and social injustice.”

“What’s amazing is when you think about right now, some of the stuff that John Lewis was fighting for, we’re still fighting for,” Rivers said. “Voter suppression right now is at an all-time high. It’s amazing how hard — we have a group of people who are trying to get people not to vote. Latinos, blacks and young people are the targets. That’s who they’re trying to get not to vote.

“It’s amazing when you think about how long ago that was, and yet we’re still fighting that fight.”