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NBA creates Kareem Abdul-Jabbar annual social justice champion award

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, author and speaker.

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The National Basketball Association announced the social justice champion award, naming it after Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The league will select a player after each season, honoring the individual who demonstrates a commitment to bringing awareness to social justice and inequalities. NBA clubs will nominate one player for the award, and finalists of the group will donate a combined $200,000 to social justice organizations.

The finalists will be selected by a committee that includes former NBA players, league executives and social justice leaders. The league said it would announce the first recipient during its postseason, which starts next week.

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

A six-time NBA champion and former Los Angeles Lakers great, Abdul-Jabbar, 74, is a long-time social justice advocate. Over the last year, he’s joined CNBC to discuss inequality in the Black community, calling for more education and financial resources.

Players, coaches and staff kneel during the national anthem before the game between the Houston Rockets and the Portland Trail Blazers at The Arena at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 04, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Kevin C. Cox | USA TODAY Sports | Reuters

“Black Americans are often the last hired and the first fired; we can change that,” Abdul-Jabbar told CNBC’s “Closing Bell” last June. “There’s a lot of positive ways we can relate to our fellow citizens and work on this problem and eliminate it.”

The NBA has increased its attention to social justice, and inequality matters over the last year following the death of George Floyd. The league committed $300 million to assist underserved areas and combat income inequality among Black people. The league distributed another installment of the grants to social organizations last month.

“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. “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 NBA’s 2020-21 regular season ends this weekend, with play-in games to start next week to determine the final four teams who will make the playoffs. The league played a shortened 72-game schedule due to the pandemic.

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