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The world lost civil rights icon John Lewis, 80, on Friday night. Inside the NBA bubble, Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers recalled when he “had the pleasure” of meeting the congressman from Georgia several times. 

“I’ll tell you a quick story,” he told reporters on a Zoom call Saturday. 

“I was young, I was playing for the Hawks, and I got to know (former mayor of Atlanta Andrew) Young really well, and Andrew was running for governor, and I went on a campaign trip with John Lewis and Andy Young.”

Rivers guessed he was around 26 or 27 at the time, although he couldn’t remember exactly.

“We flew to Albany, Georgia, of all places, and Andrew Young gave a speech at an all-white church, and he was fantastic. It was an absolutely amazing speech,” Rivers said. “The crowd was going crazy. We get on the plane, and we’re talking, and Andrew Young turns to me and said — he used to call me ‘Young Doc’ —  he says, ‘Young Doc, what did you think about the speech?’

“And I jokingly said, ‘Well, Mr. Young, I thought the speech was great, but I don’t think you’re getting one vote from that church, and everybody started laughing.

“John Lewis piped in and says, ‘Well, we’re not trying to get all of them, we’re just trying to get one at a time, and eventually it will be all of them.’ I thought that was just one powerful statement.” 

Rivers went on to call Lewis’ passing a “really sad day in our country” and noted that many of the causes Lewis fought for beginning in the early 1960s during his time as a leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee are still prevalent. 

“What’s amazing is when you think about right now, some of the stuff that John Lewis was fighting for, we’re still fighting for,” Rivers said. “Voter suppression right now is at an all-time high. It’s amazing how hard — we have a group of people who are trying to get people not to vote. Latinos, Blacks and young people are the targets. That’s who they’re trying to get not to vote. It’s amazing when you think about how long ago that was, and yet we’re still fighting that fight.” 

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.


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