Robert Covington made a name for himself in this year’s NBA All-Star Skills Challenge as the only NBA player to represent Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
While he didn’t take home the coveted trophy in Atlanta, he did show current and future students of HBCUs that a diverse and inclusive community laid the foundation for his success and career in the NBA.
Now, the four-year standout at Tennessee State, is the only player in the NBA playoffs who attended an HBCU. It’s something Covington doesn’t take for granted.
“It’s a blessing to be the only guy in the playoffs, let alone the league,” Covington said Wednesday as the Blazers prepare for Game 3 vs. the Nuggets. “We don’t get too many guys out of HBCUs anymore that have an impact, let alone stick around in the league.”
The Portland Trail Blazers forward went from four years at Tennessee State to going undrafted in 2013. He worked his way up the NBA ladder through the NBA D-League where he earned league Rookie of the Year for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers for posting 23.2 points per game, 9.2 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game.
After finally getting his breakthrough opportunity in the NBA with a four-year deal with the 76ers, Covington took home NBA All-Defensive First-Team honors in 2018. After stints with the Timberwolves and Rockets, the eight-year pro now stars on a Blazers lineup with one of the league’s best backcourts in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
Covington has emerged as bright spot for Portland, in large part to his defensive prowess. Through 70 regular-season games this season, he has averaged 1.2 blocks, 1.4 steals and 6.7 rebounds per game.
As the Blazers begin preparations for Game 3 of their first-round series vs. the Nuggets, with the series tied 1-1, Covington will be key to curing Portland’s defensive woes and helping them find success against Denver.
But in front of 8,000 fans at Moda Center on Wednesday night, Covington is playing for something much bigger than a Portland win.
“I’m giving kids hope,” he said. “I’m giving kids the understanding that you can make it out anywhere. It’s just a matter of being in the right spot at the right time and believing yourself and really putting the hard work into it. For me, like I said, I take that as a gift because if you put other people in my place, they’d tell you I’m not supposed to be here, but I don’t let that affect me. I let my work ethic, let everything speak for itself.
“My main thing is keep inspiring, keep motivating kids that to show them that anything is possible.”