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NBA Unveils New Plans to Empower HBCUs

The NBA HBCU Classic will debut in February as part of 2022 All-Star Weekend festivities in Cleveland.

After placing historically Black colleges and universities at the center of 2021 All-Star Weekend in Atlanta, the NBA is doubling down on its roadmap to lift up HBCUs.

On Thursday, the league announced expanded event programming for All-Star 2022 that will include the inaugural NBA HBCU Classic basketball game, which will be played in Cleveland as part of the league’s continuing celebration of its 75th anniversary.

Additionally, the NBA and NBA Foundation are launching annual fellowship programs for HBCU students in both undergraduate and graduate studies.

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The fellowship program will launch next year. And will run for 10 weeks with a projected 50-plus undergraduate participants. Students will be split across the NBA and WNBA league offices as well as both league’s teams. When fellows are accepted into the program they are paired with a league or team employee mentor to aid them in the experience. The league is still sorting through lodging and what potential stipends the recipients will get and applications for the program will open in the months to come.  

“This is focused on creating a rich exposure to the inner workings of our league and team operations,” said Oris Stuart, chief people and inclusion officer at the NBA, in an interview. “The students selected will not only contribute to the success of the organization they are a part of but they will also be exposed to a business and a discipline that they may not have had that much awareness of.”

“We will make sure the students are able to successfully get into the market and be on site and on point for these experiences” Stuart continued. “Our commitment is to make sure there is minimal financial burden on the students particularly if relocation is required.“

HBCU athletes will take center stage at the Classic, but coaches and trainers will have opportunities as well. The NBA, G League, and Basketball Africa League plan to leverage their pre-draft combines and showcase events for coaches and performance staff. And for HBCU students and alumni who are hoping to get into officiating, the league is expanding the NBA’s targeted referee development strategy to focus on identification, training, and educational opportunities for HBCU students and alumni.

The league’s esports arm, the NBA 2K League, will host events on HBCU campuses to introduce students to careers in gaming and esports in hopes of creating pathways for those interested to pursue jobs within the industry. 

As for the particulars of the NBA HBCU Classic, Cleveland will play host to a matchup between the Howard University Bison and the Morgan State University Bears’ men’s basketball team. The game will be played at the Wolstein Center, home of the Cleveland State Vikings, on Feb. 19, 2022.

The Morgan State Bears will take on the Howard Bison in the 2022 NBA HBCU Classic in February

“As an association, the NBA should be commended for the foresight and willingness to address important issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Dr. Ed Scott, Morgan State University’s vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics in an official release. “The creation of the NBA HBCU Classic is a clear demonstration of the NBA’s commitment to promoting HBCUs and showcasing the talented young men and women on our campuses.” 

Accompanying these announcements, more than $1 million will be contributed to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) and United Negro College Fund (UNCF). The NBA also plans to showcase HBCUs through content, storytelling, and special performances.

“All HBCUs deserve this kind of attention, as they have been underserved and under-recognized for decades,” said Dr. Michael Lomax, CEO of the UNCF in a release. “Thanks to support from the NBA, we hope many more doors of opportunity will open for the students HBCUs work so diligently to educate and graduate.”

About The Author
Randall Williams
Randall Williams
Randall Williams is a Staff Writer covering sports business and music for Boardroom. Before joining the team, he previously worked for Sportico, Andscape and Bloomberg. His byline has also been syndicated in the Boston Globe and Time Magazine. Williams' notable profile features he has written include NFL Executive VP Troy Vincent, Dreamville co-founder Ibrahim Hamad, BMX biker Nigel Sylvester and both Shedeur and Shilo Sanders. Randall, a graduate of "The Real HU" - Hampton University - is most proud of scooping Howard University joining Jordan Brand nearly three months before the official announcement.