Maryland is gradually reopening and is easing into a sense of normalcy. Even better, sports-loving Marylanders can still watch some games thanks to the return of the MLB, and soon the NBA. That is good news for residents of the south, who can follow their own Markelle Futz continue his NBA redemption tour when the league resumes.
Born in Upper Marlboro in Prince George’s County, the 22-year-old Fultz was drafted 1st overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Unfortunately, Fultz’s star flamed out before it could truly shine. A shoulder injury sidelined the young man, and his confidence waned the more he missed games. But Fultz persevered, was traded to the Orlando Magic, last season, and is now thriving as the Magic’s lead guard. Like most NBA players, the former DeMatha Catholic High star is looking forward to playing basketball again. Yet he is also looking to use his return to court to help promote civic rights initiatives at the same time.
Fultz’s Magic is part of the 22-team bubble in Orlando, but are not expected to be contenders. The team has a young untested lineup, and are short a few pieces to really challenge the NBA’s elite. It’s no wonder that the Magic are in the bottom five of Bwin’s title projections, just ahead of the San Antonio Spurs, Sacramento Kings, Memphis Grizzlies, and Washington Wizards as the longest shots to win the Larry O’Brien trophy. Not that it matters to Fultz, who is playing in the league restart not only to gain a sense of normalcy but also to champion some worthwhile causes.
ESPN reports that Fultz is excited for the restart, noting how he and his peers can use the games as a platform to support calls for inclusion and social justice. “I think as long as we’re safe, this is something that we all need,” Fultz said of the NBA’s return to action. “Basketball is a big part of a lot of people’s lives… But I feel as though we can make it the best of both worlds, as long as we’re doing everything that we can do for not only ourselves but standing up for what’s right in this world.”
Indeed, Upper Marlboro’s pride is standing up for what’s right by actively participating in his team’s own initiatives on social justice and inclusion. In fact, Fultz was praised by coach Steve Clifford for taking part in and promoting the Magic’s “Walk With Us” video. In this video, Fultz, his teammates, and members of the Magic organization called on everyone to seek equality and foster a culture of acceptance and inclusion. The normally shy playmaker, along with Lakeland Magic General Manager Anthony Parker and Nikola Vucevic, speaks near the end of the video, and delivers a compelling call to action: “It’s time to come together … to end racism … and to confirm that Black Lives Matter.”
In addition, Fultz has been actively campaigning for people to vote, noting how doing so represents a big step towards facilitating systemic change. He is also planning to wear the name of a close friend — Jaylen Brown — on his jersey as a way to both commemorate and protest his senseless killing. Clearly the restart is beyond just basketball for Fultz, and that ought to make Prince George’s County very proud.