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Justin Holiday pens powerful essay, commits to playing in Orlando

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In an open letter, Justin Holiday wrote about using his profession — beginning in Orlando — as a pathway toward empowering causes bigger than basketball.

Milwaukee Bucks v Indiana Pacers Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

Justin Holiday, who was reportedly ‘50/50’ about committing to the league’s restart plan in Orlando, has announced he will play when the season resumes next month at Walt Disney World, citing both a desire to secure his financial future and use his platform for change in an article for the Players’ Tribune.

“We deserve to be loved, supported and respected, and I am committed to making a change, and that change will be reflected through doing my job,” Holiday writes. “Come July 30, when games resume, you can expect an explosion of athleticism and focus from me, coupled with an unparalleled passion for philanthropy and human rights — rights my people have been striving to achieve for decades.”

Prior to the league’s shutdown, the 31-year-old forward was posting career-best shooting numbers both from three (42 percent) and the floor overall (44 percent), making him a tough rotation player to replace on the fly. Maintaining his efficiency from deep while playing up a position off the bench, Justin, in many ways, has been the actualized version of what C.J. Miles attempted to be for the Pacers during the 2015-16 season when the veteran sharpshooter volunteered himself as tribute at stretch-four in place of Paul George. Fast, long, and savvy, the high-IQ defender is an expert at snuffing out options behind the scenes, and he gives Indiana the flexibility to either play small or switch with liked-sized defenders.

Admitting that he was previously afraid to speak up in the past out of fear of losing job, Justin writes that he is now empowered to seek “every available avenue to contribute to the advancement of the cause of social justice” while also explaining the complexities of being a black athlete with the capacity to “do more than just dribble and dunk.”

“And thus, we’re able to feel frustrated while also showing up for work with a committed attitude and focused mindset,” he writes. “We’re able to be thankful for a means of prosperity while also feeling conflicted by expectations. Life is more valuable than status and earning power. Job 42:2 tells us that we were born with worth and with a purpose, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge the power in my position as an NBA athlete.”

With Holiday in for the restart and issuing himself, and the rest of us, a challenge to both know and be better, the Pacers are expected to have their full roster intact when the team travels to Orlando on July 9 — though, with Malcolm Brogdon currently in quarantine and Victor Oladipo exercising caution, the extent to which everyone involved will play is still to be determined.