For the last 72 years, Christmas Day has been the biggest day of the NBA regular season and while that’s unlikely to change anytime soon, the slate of games on Martin Luther King Jr. Day has gained prominence as the league takes the opportunity to shine a light on Dr. King’s legacy throughout a full slate of marquee matchups.
Ahead of the NBA schedule release at 3 p.m. ET, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported three of the games that will be played on MLK Day next season, including a matchup between Russell Westbrook and his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Sources: Marquee slate of NBA games on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 20, for the 2019-20 season schedule most notably include:
Golden State vs. Portland, Lakers vs. Boston, Houston vs. Oklahoma City.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 12, 2019
MLK Day won’t mark the first time Westbrook will play the Thunder in OKC, as that game has been set for Jan. 9, but it will still be a highly anticipated game nonetheless, especially if the Thunder exceed expectations with their core of Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams. The game between the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors will also be one worth tuning into. Last season, the Warriors swept the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Semifinals, so expect Portland to have an extra pep in their step that night.
Of course, the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, two teams with a ton of history with each other, always make for an intriguing matchup (particularly for TV broadcasters). However, as historic as the rivalry may be, they haven’t been on the same level competitively over the last several years. This year it’s the Lakers who are expected to leap Boston in terms of being a contender, but it should be a more competitive matchup than in recent years. Even if not, the rivalry seems to bring the best out of both teams and their fans, so it should be a fun one, it just probably won’t be the best game of the night.
The NBA also typically has Atlanta and Memphis host games on MLK Day, given the importance of both cities to Dr. King’s legacy, so expect at least one if not both of those to fill out the full slate. The basketball on Martin Luther King Jr. Day figures to be excellent, but most importantly it’s an opportunity to continue to shine light on his efforts as a civil right’s leader and highlight those helping to carry out his vision in 2019.