With more and more NBA players using their platforms and resources to inspire change and fight for social justice, the league has unveiled a new method to laud their individual efforts.
On Thursday, the NBA announced the creation of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award, which will be bestowed annually and that will recognize a current NBA player for “pursuing social justice and upholding the league’s decades-long values of equality, respect, and inclusion,” per a press release provided to The Root.
The winner of the inaugural award, named after one of the most accomplished players in NBA history, will be announced in the playoffs and will be honored for advancing Abdul-Jabbar’s mission to “drive change and inspire others to reflect on injustice and take collective action in their communities over the previous year.” They will then select an organization to receive a $100,000 contribution on their behalf, while the other four finalists will each do the same with a $25,000 contribution.
“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,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement provided to The Root. “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.”
Abdul-Jabbar, who once described himself as “Black power in the flesh” during a 1980 interview with Sports Illustrated, is noted for his lifelong commitment to social justice and Black progress. In light of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, he expressed his disgust at the continued discrimination and mistreatment of Black people in America by organizing a boycott at the 1968 Summer Olympics, he took a stand against Jim Crow-era segregation, was a participant in the infamous 1967 Cleveland Summit, and he recognized early in his career that professional athletes have one of the most powerful voices when it comes to inspiring change.
That mission still lives on today as the six-time NBA champion continues to promote equality and combat discrimination in the decades since retiring from basketball.
“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,” Abdul-Jabbar said in a statement provided to The Root. “To me, it’s another giant step in the right direction for the country and all people who value equality.”
Each NBA team will nominate one player from their roster to be the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion. The finalists and winner will be selected by a committee composed of NBA legends, league executives, and social justice leaders.