NBA announces social justice award named after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The league is giving the basketball legend a much-deserved honor

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar‘s social justice activism has not gone unnoticed. On Thursday, the NBA announced new award will be named for the basketball legend. The Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award will be given to the NBA player who has contributed the most to achieving equality.

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“I’m honored and grateful to be associated with this award that will recognize the dedicated and selfless people fighting to promote social justice for all marginalized people,” said Abdul-Jabbar, per a press release

“To me, it’s another giant step in the right direction for the country and all people who value equality.”

The 74-year-old six-time NBA champion and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer is known for his charitable work.

33rd Annual Nautica Malibu Triathlon Presented By Bank Of America
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar attends the 33rd annual Nautica Malibu Triathlon on September 15, 2019 in Malibu, California. (Photo by Tasia Wells/Getty Images for Nautica)

“In addition to being one of our greatest players, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has devoted much of his life to advocating for equality and social justice,” said NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in the release. “With this new award, we are proud to recognize and celebrate NBA players who are using their influence to make an impact on their communities and our broader society.”

The winner of the scholarship will select an organization to receive a $100K contribution on his behalf. Four other finalists will do the same with a $25,000 contribution.

Teams will choose one player from the 30 NBA teams to receive the award. The winner and the finalists will be selected by a committee of NBA legends, league executives and social justice leaders.

A Harlem, New York native, Abdul-Jabbar has been open about how meeting Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in high school impacted his commitment to social justice.

“I met Dr. King in the summer of 1964 when I was seventeen years old. He had come to speak to participants of the HARYOU ACT, a mentoring program in Harlem that I was a part of. During a press conference that was covered by all the major news media, I had the opportunity to ask him a question,” said Abdul- Jabbar per his website.

“That same year he won the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest man ever to receive that honor (I’m not saying there’s any connection between the question I asked and his getting a Nobel Prize, but it is an odd coincidence, you be the judge).

The 2019 ESPYs - Inside
(L-R) Kobe Bryant, Billie Jean King, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bill Russell, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar attend The 2019 ESPYs at Microsoft Theater on July 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)

He encouraged us to imagine a better Harlem and, beyond Harlem, a better America. I admired him for his courage to advocate change through non-violence, a stance that rarely proves popular among people who have been denied equal opportunities for long periods of time.

Yet, he stuck to his convictions, in the face of jail, in the face of doubt from within his own organization, in the face of ridicule from other African-Americans. And the wisdom of his leadership has been proven by the success of the civil rights movement.”

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In 2009, Abdul-Jabbar created an organization titled the Skyhook Foundation, dedicated to providing educational STEM opportunities to underserved communities.

Throughout his career, he has consistently fought against discrimination and advocated for social justice. HIs distinguished NBA career includes six regular-season MVP awards, 19 All-Star Game selections, and 38,387 career points, all league records earned in 20 NBA seasons playing for the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks.

In 2016, Abdul-Jabbar was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by then-president Barack Obama.

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