Mays to get MLK Day honor in Memphis

Mays to get MLK Day honor in Memphis

Willie Mays will be part of a Hall of Fame triumvirate that gets honored on Martin Luther King Day.

Mays, thought by many analysts to be the greatest center fielder to ever play in the Major Leagues, will be one of the guests of honor Jan. 17 when the Memphis Grizzlies pay tribute to fallen civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. That tidbit became news Tuesday, when the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported the team's plans to commemorate the occasion.

Mays and NBA greats Willis Reed and Lenny Wilkens -- both enshrined in the sport's Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. -- will be lauded for their contributions to civil and human rights as part of a pregame ceremony on Martin Luther King Day.

All three men will receive the sixth annual National Civil Rights Sports Legacy Award, which is intended to pay tribute to the athletes who laid the foundation for future leaders through their achievements in the world of sports.

Mays, who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979, will have fitting company in Reed and Wilkens. Reed, a two-time NBA champion, was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982. Wilkens has been inducted into his sport's Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach, but the trio are being recognized for their off-field virtues.

All three men will be part of a Sports Legacy Symposium at FedExForum on the morning of Jan. 17, and they'll be on hand later that night before the Grizzlies take on the Bulls. Mavis Staples, longtime gospel singer and civil-rights activist, will sing the national anthem before the game and will later perform again during the halftime proceedings.

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.