Michael B. Jordan launches basketball showcase for HBCU athletes

Jordan’s “Hoop Dreams Classic” tips off December 18 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ

Basketball as we know it today may not exist without the contributions of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and their alumni, such as Howard University graduate Edwin Henderson, who earned the nickname “The Father of Black Basketball” in the early 20th century when he introduced the game to African Americans in Washington D.C., catalyzing the sport’s rapid growth in popularity among Black communities nationwide.

Edwin Henderson (November 24, 1883 – February 3, 1977), widely recognized as the “Grandfather of Black Basketball.” pic.twitter.com/TGk5jEbKjx

— BeverlyBlack (@gumboforthesoul) September 8, 2016

Today, largely thanks to Henderson’s contributions, basketball is not only one of the most popular sports among HBCUs, but among Black Americans across the country. Despite the current popularity, only one five-star-ranked high school basketball player has opted to play for an HBCU since ESPN began ranking players in 2007.

Actor and producer Michael B. Jordan is among the high-profile public figures making efforts to further amplify HBCUs and their student-athletes in 2021. The Black Panther and Just Mercy star is launching the “Hoop Dreams Classic,” a basketball showcase featuring the nation’s top Division 1 HBCU men’s and women’s basketball teams.

The one-day event will tip off December 18 at the Prudential Center in Jordan’s hometown of Newark, New Jersey. A percentage of the event’s proceeds will be donated to organizations working to advance HBCUs in the Newark area.

On Monday, HBCU Gameday reported that the event will include two games featuring two of the biggest rivalries in HBCU basketball: North Carolina A&T versus Howard, and North Carolina Central versus Hampton. 

Michael B. Jordan attends the 51st NAACP Image Awards, Presented by BET, at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on February 22, 2020 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

When Jordan first announced the event in December 2020, he explained that he was motivated to put on the event following the increased global attention to the Black Lives Matter movement after the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others at the hands of police officers.

“This past year has been the tipping point for so many, including myself, in revving up support for Black people,” Jordan said in a statement. “As a Newark native, I am committed to bringing change to the community and am honored to be able to present The Hoop Dreams Classic as a way to celebrate the value of community, education, and Black college experiences. Through our shared love of basketball, I look forward to bringing the communal spirit of HBCUs to the city that helped shape me into the man I am today.”

The event will also highlight HBCU culture and tradition through live musical performances, a Battle of the Bands competition, film festivals, and educational resources for students to learn about college and career opportunities.

Jordan, 34, is also amplifying Black voices and stories through his #ChangeHollywood initiative, which holds Hollywood accountable for representing Black stories and hiring Black creators.

Jordan Bazant, co-head of WME Sports, one of the event’s sponsors, told Forbes Jordan wanted the basketball event to have a similar impact to the #ChangeHollywood campaign.

“Michael challenged us and encouraged us to make the same impact we are with #ChallengeHollywood, and it fits perfectly with what and who we are,” Bazant said. “What about sports? What about music? … Talking to other partners, they were doing their own things and challenging themselves, so we said, why don’t we come together like we have in the past to make a bigger impact? It’s the next step and next generation for #ChangeHollywood.”

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