NBA announces “Social Justice Champion Award” winner


The National Basketball Association announced the creation of an annual Social Justice Champion Award in 2021. Named for 6-time NBA champion Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the award recognizes a player for “pursuing social justice and upholding the league’s decades-long values of equality, respect and inclusion.”

According to the NBA, “The recipient will have advanced Abdul-Jabbar’s mission to drive change and inspired others to reflect on injustice and take collective action in their communities over the previous year.”

During the Nuggets-Laker game on Sunday, the NBA presented the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award for the 2021-2022 season to Carmelo Anthony of the Portland Trailblazers.

Sports Illustrated reported that Anthony was selected because he “played an integral role in helping Portland start the Trail Blazers Racial Injustice Initiative, an organization that provided more than $200,000 in funding to organizations to fight systematic racism.”

Following his selection, Anthony tweeted, “Humbled, honored, and motivated to live up to the namesake of this inaugural award. I can promise that I’ll continue to carry the torch and shine a light in the places that need it most.”

Finalists were determined by a selection committee of seven, including Abdul-Jabbar. Carmelo Anthony was the inaugural winner of the award. On Anthony’s behalf, $100,000 will be donated to the Portland Art Museum’s Black Arts and Experience Initiative. The finalists were Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings), Tobias Harris (Philadelphia 76ers), Jrue Holiday (Milwaukee Bucks), and Juan Toscano Anderson (Golden State Warriors).

All 30 teams submit the name of one player from their roster. From that list four finalists and one winner are selected. The winning player receives $100,000, while the four finalists each receive $25,000. All monies are donated to the charities of their choice.

The trophy was created by designers at the Marcus Graham Project, with whom the NBA has partnered. It features Kareem’s hands holding a clear glass basketball that represents the globe.

It’s worth noting that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar created a name for himself both on and off the court. Abdul-Jabbar holds league records for regular-season MVP awards (6), All-Star Game selections (19), and career points (38,387) during his 20 NBA seasons playing for the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks.

CBS This Morning reported on the award, including an interview the Kareem.

In their official press release, the NBA describes how, at age 17, Kareem meet Dr. Martin Luther King. Inspired by Dr. King’s message, Kareem became “committed to using his influence as a visible athlete to engage on critically important social issues during the Civil Rights Movement.”

In addition, President Obama awarded Kareem Abdul-Jabbar the President Medal of Freedom in 2016, our country’s highest civilian honor.

In terms of promoting “equality, respect and inclusion” it’s also worth noting that 74.2 percent of NBA players are black.

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