Upon winning their second NBA title, Chicago Bulls paid a visit to the U.S. president George H.W. Bush at the White House. It was a beautiful sunny day in Washington D.C., a perfect occasion for a visit by the most recent NBA champions, an event which has become a tradition during the previous years. But the event in 1992 was somewhat different and provided significant historical importance.
“The history of your country politically can’t be told without telling the history of the country athletically.”
Van Jones, NBA on TNT
This time, the best basketball player on the planet, Michael Jordan, wasn’t present. But the quiet guy from the Chicago Stadium corner, three-time NBA three-point champion Craig Hodges certainly was. Knowing that this visit is a unique opportunity, Hodges firmly decided to make it count.
“I think the fundamental duty of the athlete is to example the highest level of excellence. And there is a direct connection between the excellence on the court and trying to live with integrity, honesty, and decency.”
dr. Cornel West, NBA on TNT
The 6’3’’ combo guard, who had amazed the fans in the Charlotte Coliseum with his masterful performance in the final of the 1991 NBA All-Star three-point shootout, by scoring record 19 out of the possible 25 points, knew very well that each shot could make a massive difference at the end of the ball game.
This was maybe the most important shot of his career. Hodges was taking a shot for his people, in an uncertain time after the infamous and violent 1992 L.A. riots, which had greatly divided the nation. Hodges bravely decided to take a stand as an activist and speak out loudly for the African-American community.
“My grandpa and my uncles, they all taught me about the conscious athletes of that time - the Jim Browns, Muhamed Alis, Lew Alcindors, Curt Floods, guys who I look to as far as being able to balance consciousness and balance their sport.”
Craig Hodges, NBA on TNT
At first sight, Hodges drew a lot of attention by President George H.W. Bush and others by wearing a bright white dashiki, type of clothes which was uncommonly seen in the White House.
“I wanted it to be on the record that I came in a certain manner that was respectful but also mindful, where I came from, and where I want my people to be.”
Craig Hodges, "Shut up and Dribble"
After shooting a series of shots from the perimeter of the basketball court in a White House backyard, Hodges fulfilled the most important mission of his life - he approached the President’s press secretary and handed over a letter with details of the problems which were, and still are, plaguing the African-American community.
The athletes from the Chicago Bulls, number 12, 10 of whom are the descendants of African slaves, I’ve taken on the responsibility to speak on behalf of those who are not able to be heard from where they are.
We have a sector of our population that is being described as an ‘endangered species” i.e. the young black man.
The question must be asked why is the condition of the inner cities around the country in a state of emergency because of wanton violence, lack of jobs, or drugs.
It is very important that the citizens of this great nation make a determination on what side of the history we will be on in this most critical hour.”
Hodges believes that the brave action he took on that special day did cause the eventual repercussion.
After winning two NBA championship titles with the Chicago Bulls, and becoming the first player ever to win three consecutive NBA All-Star three-point shootout champion titles, the elite marksman was suddenly waved by the Bulls on July 10th, 1992, depriving him of a chance to win yet another NBA championship ring. He didn't play a single NBA game after that day.