The 2021 NBA All-Star Game took place on Sunday night, and Gladys Knight kicked things off with a memorable performance of the national anthem. The 76-year-old legendary singer was accompanied by an organist and stood in front of an American flag at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. When Knight began performing, social media didn't hold back their thoughts.
"Finally, we got a competent singer, thank you," one person on Twitter wrote. Another fan wrote, "amazing job," while another fan added, "what a way to sing a national anthem." The NBA honored Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) during the game, and Knight is a graduate of Shaw University, one of the oldest HBCUs in the country. Additionally, Knight was born and raised in Atlanta and performed the national anthem at Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta in 2019.
"Grambling State University Tiger Marching Band and Florida A&M University Marching 100 will play during NBA All-Star player introductions from their respective historical campuses," the NBA said in a statement before the game when talking about other additional ways the league is honoring HBCUs. "Throughout the game, members of the Divine Nine fraternities and sororities, a prestigious group of nine historically Black Greek letter organizations, will introduce Atlanta’s most reputable step teams from Spelman College and Morehouse College."
When Knight was asked to perform the Super Bowl's national anthem in 2019, she explained why she wanted to do it. "I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 3 to give the anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words, the way it unites us when we hear it, and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life, from walking back hallways, from marching with our social leaders, from using my voice for good," Knight said. "I have been in the forefront of this battle longer than most of those voicing their opinions to win the right to sing our country's anthem on a stage as large as the Super Bowl LIII."