MEMPHIS – James Johnson made it a habit to visit the National Civil Rights Museum regularly when he played his one season in Memphis.
Especially when he was getting a haircut.
Johnson can see the museum in downtown Memphis from Christyles, a barbershop owned by former NBA star Penny Hardaway. Johnson went for a haircut Sunday and “paid my respects” as many of his teammates also toured the museum – centered around the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.
“It’s the dream he had to allow us the dream we’re dreaming now. That’s a big deal to us and should be a big deal,” Johnson said. “The guys who got to see it for the first time they really appreciated it. Monuments like that they give you the chills.”
A group of Heat players, coaches and staff made the short trip to the museum, set blocks from the team’s hotel, Sunday. The Heat face Memphis tonight. The museum documents the Civil Rights movement in this country from the 17th century to the present. Buildings adjacent to the hotel also are a part of the museum.
“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,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “The sacrifices that they made and what Martin Luther Kind 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.”
Justise Winslow visited the museum one other time but returned Sunday. What stands out for Winslow is we are a little more than 50 years removed from the Civil Rights Movement and the Civil Rights Act.
“That kind of hit me it’s been awhile but at the same time in the grand scheme of things it really hasn’t been that long,” Winslow said. “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 people taking a stand in what they believe is key in any culture, anywhere around the world.”
Bam Adebayo visited the museum for the first time.
“It opens your eyes because if you think about it, it was only 50 years ago,” he said. “Seeing all that happen and seeing the United States today and how we’re progressing it’s a good thing. Just hearing the stories. … it’s something you can never forget. Thinking about what people had to go through then and how they united from it leaves an impression.”
The group posed for a picture with their arms locked outside of the spot where King was assassinated April 4, 1968.
“It shows our loyalty. We care about each other. Black, white, purple, green, we don’t care. We judge it by character. We love one another by our character. It’s how we justify each other.”