The NBA recently announced the creation of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award, a new annual honor that will recognize a current NBA player for pursuing social justice and upholding the league’s decades-long values of equality, respect and inclusion.
The award is named after six-time NBA champion and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. 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.
The winner of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion honor will select an organization to receive a $100,000 contribution on his behalf. The other four finalists will each select an organization to receive a $25,000 contribution.
“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. “To me, it’s another giant step in the right direction for the country and all people who value equality.”
“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. “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.”
All 30 NBA teams 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.
Abdul-Jabbar has been a champion of inclusivity dating to his youth. At 17, he met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Abdul-Jabbar’s hometown of Harlem. Inspired by King’s message, Abdul-Jabbar committed to using his influence as a visible athlete to engage on critically important social issues during the Civil Rights Movement. He attended the 1967 Cleveland Summit where Bill Russell, Jim Brown and other prominent Black athletes gathered to discuss Muhammad Ali’s refusal to serve in the Vietnam War. Abdul-Jabbar has continued to promote equality and combat discrimination in the decades since his retirement from basketball. In 2016, former President Barack Obama awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. In 2009, Abdul-Jabbar created the Skyhook Foundation, aimed at providing educational STEM opportunities to underserved communities.
One of the most accomplished players in NBA history, Abdul-Jabbar holds league records for regular-season MVP awards (six), All-Star Game selections (19) and career points (38,387) captured during his 20 NBA seasons playing for the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks. He joined the NBA in the 1969-70 season after leading UCLA to three consecutive national championships.