Trail Blazers forward Robert Covington was a man on a mission Sunday.
And even though he was competing against NBA All-Stars Luka Dončić of the Mavericks and Chris Paul of the Suns along with Knicks forward Julius Randle, Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis and Magic center Nikola Vučević, it wasn’t all about hoisting up the 2021 Skills Challenge trophy.
Covington was a star in Atlanta over the weekend while representing his alma mater Tennessee State and HBCUs everywhere.
In the first heat of the challenge, Sabonis beat out Randle.
Next up, it was Covington versus Vučević.
But just as RoCo discussed with the TNT crew before the event started, he was nervous about completing the pass.
And that’s where he lost a few seconds to Vučević.
Despite the Trail Blazers forward being eliminated in the first round of the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the competition meant a lot to Covington because of what the NBA is doing during All-Star weekend.
This year, the league and the players association is committing more than $2.5 million in funds and resources toward HBCUs and COVID-19 relief.
Covington attended Tennessee State, a Historically Black College and University in Nashville and now, he is the only NBA player to have attended an HBCU.
Following the Skills Challenge, Covington discussed how this weekend was about showing current and future students of HBCUs that they can achieve their goals if they're passionate and work hard.
“If they see me doing this, it can help push them,” Covington said. “That’s what my whole purpose is to inspire and motivate everyone."
The 30-year-old Trail Blazers veteran was predicted to finish second to last in Sunday's competition and he did say that gave him a little extra fuel heading into the challenge.
“I saw the odds… Regardless of what the numbers say, I’m going out here to win,” Covington told the TNT crew before the event.
It was then that RoCo also relieved that he was competing in his Tennessee State jersey, while current TSU students were attending the event on a virtual fan board.
Covington graduated from Tennessee State University in 2013 with a degree in Exercise Science while finishing his college basketball career ranked seventh on Tennessee State’s all-time list in both scoring (1,749 points) and rebounding (876).
This past November, he donated $1 million to his alma mater to help build a new basketball practice facility.
And now he’s helping two current students.
Before the Skills Challenge, Covington announced that he was surprising two current Tennessee State students with $25,000 scholarships.
So far during All-Star weekend, $250,000 has been raised for HBCUs and for awareness and support for COVID-19 relief.
Covington reiterated after lacing it up in the Skills Challenge, he wants students of Historically Black Colleges and Universities to always dream big and if they put the work in, they can achieve their goals.
"Me coming from HBCU, I was counted out in a lot of ways... Nobody thought I would be in the NBA... Even once I got my chance -- it was still a lot of 'what ifs...' I'm just thankful that I can help everyone's narratives."
As for the Skills Challenge, it was a battle of the big men.
Sabonis defeated Vučević to take home the hardware.
But it was RoCo who everyone was talking about Sunday.