It’s commonplace today to see superstar athletes taking on the powers that be, challenging issues of injustice in America. Historical figures like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali made waves challenging racism during the civil rights era. And today, basketball stars like Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony pick up the slack, using their voices to combat the same issues faced by icons of the past. While some athletes are praised for their actions, others are blackballed, erased from our memory banks and history books. One such person is Craig Hodges, and he has written a book to remind the world who he is.

Former NBA player Craig Hodges’ book will be released on Jan. 31. (Courtesy photo)

Former NBA player Craig Hodges’ book will be released on Jan. 31. (Courtesy photo)

Publisher Haymarket Books and author Rory Fanning have taken on the story of Hodges, one of the NBA’s greatest shooters who was blackballed for his activism.

Long Shot : The Struggles and Triumphs of an NBA Freedom Fighter details the rise and fall of Hodges, and how a visit to the White House led to him being removed from the league.

A member of the storied ’90’s Chicago Bulls, Hodges was a member of both the Champion 1991 and 1992 teams. During the span of 1990-92, Hodges won three-consecutive 3-Point Shootout Championships during All-Star Weekends. Despite Hodges being tied with Hall of Famer Larry Bird for most wins in the contest, it’s rarely mentioned.

Hodges record of 19 consecutive shots made in 1991 has yet to be broken. Yet following 1992, Hodges was let go by the Bulls, never to play in the NBA again. Considering his accomplishments, it’s obvious that Hodges committed a heinous violation in order to be exiled from the league at just 32. Hodges simply challenged the NBA, U.S. President George H.W. Bush, and the league’s best player Michael Jordan.

The details of Hodges addressing then-President Bush in 1991 at the team’s Championship White House Ceremony are well documented. Media outlets circulated the story of Hodges handing over a letter with requests and demands, noting problems and the plight of African-Americans in the U.S. Hodges wanted change, yet he didn’t understand the repercussions his penned letter would have on his life.

Fanning chronicles Hodges’ life from inner-city youth to big money NBA star. But Fanning brilliantly sprinkles inklings of circumstances through Hodges life that paved the way for the polarizing, boisterous figure he became. There are three sides to a story, two sides and the truth. Hodges finally gets to give his point of view, detailing what lead him to become whom he is, and his ultimate departure from the NBA.

Hodges is known for taking on teammate Michael Jordan, a feat frowned upon by many. Even retired, Jordan is still a dominant figure as the primary owner of the Charlotte Hornets, and his stories of bullying teammates and opposing players are well documented. Hodges’ attempts to sway Jordan to use his voice and influence for change fell astray, souring their relationship, which Hodges goes into great detail in the book.

Instead of a messy attempt at sabotaging and slandering, Hodges and Fanning find balance, telling the story by using names strictly as evidence. It’s well known that activism in sports was not prominent in 1980’s ‘til 2000’s in terms of Black athletes. But Hodges gives insight on the fears and sentiments of those around him, and why things were and still are what they are.

There is a happy ending to the story, with Hodges making his way back into the NBA, as a coach for the Westchester Knicks in the NBA Development League. But the road to where he is now, and the continuous fight for change, even in old age, are worth reading.

In light of San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernicks recent backlash for exercising his celebrity for better, this book is a must-read for those in the fight for change, and those opposed.