Black History Month Panel Wows Onlookers At NBA All-Star 2015

February 27, 2015

By Paul Corliss

This is the fourth in a four-part series of ‘Legends Reflect’ features celebrating Black History Month, February, 2015. Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC is the presenting partner for the NBRPA’s Black History Month Celebration.

On February 13, the National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) made magic in a 7th-floor ballroom of the Marriott Marquis, delivering a near-perfect convergence of sermon, swagger, scholarship and soul through its Legends Celebration of Black History Month, presented by Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC. Anchored by a five-person panel discussion of societal issues applied to the game of basketball, this event served as a tip-off to NBA All-Star 2015 and a crown jewel of the NBRPA’s month-long homage to African-American pioneers that changed the game.

The panel itself was built like a great team … with size, speed, strength and skill coming from different directions, backgrounds and eras. Hall of Famer Ralph Sampson held down the middle with honest skill, just like he did in his dominant days at the University of Virginia and as a Houston Rockets All-Star. His sidekick on the frontline, Hall of Fame finalist Spencer Haywood, flashed the same personality that made him equal parts All-Star and celebrity in his prime. Dr. Richard Lapchick, son of legendary Knicks coach Joe Lapchick, brought intellect and sincerity to the floor. And in the backcourt, two New York City legends – adopted New Yorker Teresa Weatherspoon, who helped build the WNBA as a member of the New York Liberty, and beloved native son and Hall of Famer Nate “Tiny” Archibald – darted and dished through the discussion, providing poignant comments and heartfelt observations. Every great team needs a motivating coach and civil rights leader Marc Morial, CEO of the National Urban League, played this role to perfection while moderating the panel – prodding and squeezing the participants for more thought-provoking dialogue with each question he asked.

Still tall and lean at 7-foot-4, Sampson’s gait toward the stage during panelist introductions brought visions of the famously lanky President Abraham Lincoln. The comparison to our 16th President didn’t end there, as “Straight Sampson” did his best “Honest Abe,” delivering authentic tales about sneaker contracts, payment of amateur players and more.

Introduced by Morial as the son of a mother who picked cotton for two dollars a day, the ever-charismatic Haywood corrected the moderator and informed him that he too picked cotton for two dollars a day in Silver City, Mississippi. Haywood also delivered perhaps the evening’s finest story, when he spoke of legendary track star Jesse Owens telling Haywood and his 1968 Olympic gold medal-winning teammates about running in front of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany in the 1936 Berlin Games.

Lapchick, a scholar who is often referred to as the racial conscience of sport, provided academic perspective and a uniquely personal tale of how he, a white man, was badly beaten for his stance against South African apartheid. Lapchick also shared tales of segregation and prejudice met by Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, who became the first African-American signed to an NBA contract by Joe Lapchick in 1950.

Weatherspoon, the only female panelist, spoke from a different place – overcoming not only racial obstacles, but also challenges unique to females. Few eyes in the room remained dry when Weatherspoon beamed after telling the story of how she made her father’s dream of playing big league professional sports come true after his baseball aspirations met racial road blocks decades earlier.

For all the great stories and discussion points that came from Sampson, Haywood, Lapchick and Weatherspoon, it was Archibald – a quiet, humble man that returned to the Bronx upon finishing his playing career – who owned the stage. At 66-years young, Archibald has a master’s degree in education and is working on his doctorate. Scholarship has become his life and he delivered a rousing message to all in attendance – the path to a better life begins with education. Archibald also called on today’s players to help their predecessors that are in need, and those words were echoed by Haywood and Sampson.

As the panel wound down and closed, autograph seekers and selfie-snapping fans swarmed the stage to prove that they were part of such an entertaining and impactful event. Ever the smooth politician, Morial – the former Mayor of New Orleans – snuck out the side door (clutching his own autographed basketball) long before the audience and media on-hand allowed the panelists to exit.

Diversity at Wells Fargo Advisors
Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC is the presenting partner for the NBRPA’s Black History Month Celebration.

Wells Fargo Advisors wouldn’t be successful without the dedicated individuals driving it. We believe it takes individuals from all backgrounds and cultures to fuel this success, and we value our team members as our most important asset.

That’s why we focus on creating an inclusive environment where all people are treated fairly, recognized for their individuality, promoted based on performance, and encouraged to reach their full potential.

“At Wells Fargo Advisors, we are intensely focused on building and sustaining an environment that enables all of our team members to be wildly successful. We believe that our diversity makes us stronger and helps us better understand the unique needs of our clients. We invest in the unique needs of our Financial Advisors so that they can be best positioned to make that same investment
with clients.”

– Mary Mack, head of Wells Fargo Advisors