February 17th. Not only does it signify another day to celebrate the culture during Black History Month but it also marks the birthday of three men who have each played a significant role in accomplishments worthy of mention beyond just February. Those men are Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, Micheal Jordan and Huey P. Newton. While each played an entirely different role in the progression of cultural change, each played an important part.
When you think of the NBA, ask anyone who the greatest player of all time is and guaranteed 9 times out of 10 you will hear Michael Jordan come up. From the time he stepped on the floor at UNC hitting championship game winners (1982) to being NBA Rookie of the Year to pulling a three peat (twice) for the Chicago Bulls, it is hard to find anyone who impacted the game more. The flashy gold chain, fresh J’s and a tongue out taking flight had the entire nation yelling “I wanna be…I wanna be like Mike” completely transforming the game, one that would never be the same again. It would only continue to grow as the players get better and better.
Perfect example being the Golden State Warriors who are the only team to ever legitimately challenge his 1997-98 team record of 72-10 but it could happen. MJ ended his basketball career with 6 NBA titles, 14-time All Star (3-time All Star MVP), 5-time NBA MVP and a place in NBA history as the greatest shooting guard to ever lace them up. Not to mention his off the court moves have made him the first athlete to become a billionaire, which includes the Charlotte Hornets and his ever growing Jordan brand. Happy Birthday to the GOAT!
Before Jordan, there was an even tougher Hall of Fame athlete whose brand was a direct reflection of the times and change he felt necessary. Cleveland Browns Running Back Jim Brown one of the greatest rushers ever, his impact was not only felt by unsuspecting defenders getting trucked on the field but off the field as he showed up on the big screen several times in movie roles (over 30) and beyond that with his constant pressure on the film industry to give blacks certain parts.
“I’m just being myself; that’s all I know how to do. I’m sure not taking anything away from any others like James Earl Jones. But there’s a crying need for more Negro actors, because for so long, ever since the silent screen, in fact, the whole world has been exposed to Negroes in stereotype roles.”
— Jim Brown (@JimBrownNFL32) February 17, 2016
In a time where society constantly gets mad at athletes for not using their platform accordingly, Jim Brown set a solid example in that area. Not only one of the greats on the field but a great man off the gridiron as well. Happy Birthday to the great Jim Brown.
Last birthday of the day is probably in a different conversation than the previous two but his impact on the African American culture will forever last thanks to his contributions with the Black Panthers. The Oakland native Huey Newton took a more aggressive approach to social and political change, deciding to put the power in the hands of the community as well as people to protect and provide for their own. Efforts that were respected by lots and opposed by just as many but it is rare to see growth without resistance.
Recently, Beyonce paid homage during her controversial Super Bowl 50 performance and it sparked countless debates regarding the group and if you want to know more about the great African American leader as well, PBS aired a documentary just last night highlighting the efforts of Newton and his following.