In a continuation of its celebration of Black colleges during the 2021 All-Star Weekend, the NBA plans to continue to promote, aid and develop students professionally from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) during the 2022 All-Star Weekend and beyond.
On Thursday, the NBA is announcing plans to develop new programs and events at HBCUs. The focus is on professional development, career advancement and increasing support and awareness of HBCU athletics and institutions. There will be a televised matchup between Howard and Morgan State’s men’s basketball teams, the NBA HBCU Classic, on Feb. 19 at the Wolstein Center during 2022 NBA All-Star Weekend in Cleveland. The NBA also plans to donate more than $1 million to aid HBCUs through the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the United Negro College Fund and other academic institutions.
“There was an incredible use of the 2021 NBA All-Star Weekend to support HBCUs,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum told ESPN’s The Undefeated. “So this season, we are building on that even more and we’re going to be launching several new programs as part of our commitment to supporting HBCU students and their professional development and career advancement while also trying to drive economic opportunity.”
The NBA and its 30 teams will offer a new paid fellowship program in 2022 for HBCU undergraduate and graduate students. The NBA says that the NBA Foundation-led program will offer Black college students “the opportunity to gain real-life insights and professional experience around the business of basketball.” The students will work in positions at the league office and with NBA and WNBA teams while being matched with a league or team employee as a mentor.
“We have a long history of the values of our sport, being diversity, equity and inclusion,” Tatum said. “This is part of our DNA. We think there is so much opportunity here for Black youth. We want to help accelerate those opportunities for Black youth and graduates of HBCUs to get them access to and exposure into the sports industry. The business side of it. The operations side of it.”
Moreover, the NBA, G League and Basketball Africa League plan to use their pre-draft combines and showcase events to highlight HBCU players, coaches and athletic trainers, hoping to increase exposure and opportunities to pursue professional basketball careers. The NBA already has several referees from HBCUs. Even so, the NBA plans to target referee development strategy to leverage existing programs and focus on identification of Black college students, training and educational opportunities.
The NBA 2K League is also slated to host events on HBCU campuses to educate students about gaming and esports careers and help them gain access to the industry. The NBA said HBCU alumni and Black entrepreneurs will partner with the league as part of the NBA’s commitment to adding more businesses for people of color as league licensees. The NBA also plans to air special alternate game telecasts this season that will feature interactive enhancements on its League Pass and offer HBCU schools special access to choice games.
“This is a really comprehensive program here focused on HBCU students and the community,” Tatum said.