Carmelo Anthony is the NBA’s first Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion
The Afro-Latino future basketball Hall of Famer won the award for his dedication to various social justice efforts particularly over the past year, but also the past two decades.
Carmelo Anthony of the Portland Trail Blazers was announced as the inaugural winner of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award on Tuesday, June 29.
He beat out four other finalists for the award — Tobias Harris of the Philadelphia 76ers, Jrue Holiday of the Milwaukee Bucks, Harrison Barnes of the Sacramento Kings, and Juan Toscano-Anderson of the Golden State of Warriors.
“This award right here means more than any of the other awards I’ve ever received.” @carmeloanthony on being named the inaugural Kareem Abdul-Jabbar #SocialJusticeChampion Award winner. pic.twitter.com/4DOzYhBoOe
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) June 29, 2021
The newly-created annual honor “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 description reads.
It is named after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who has committed his entire adult life to using his influence as an athlete on social issues during the Civil Rights Movement, throughout his 20-year professional basketball career and in the three-plus decades since his retirement.
— NBA (@NBA) June 30, 2021
As the winner of the award, Anthony was given the opportunity to select an organization to receive a $100,000 contribution on his behalf, to which he chose the Portland Art Museum's Black Arts and Experiences Initiative.
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. #STAYME7O pic.twitter.com/t5H0H6Y8B5
— Carmelo Anthony (@carmeloanthony) June 30, 2021
For Anthony, throughout his career, beyond his accomplishments on the court — including 10 All-Star Team selections, three U.S. Olympic gold medals, and a scoring title — Anthony also has a long history of social justice work off it.
Most recently, he partnered with 94-year-old activist Opal Lee to raise awareness about Juneteenth and advocate for the day to become a national holiday, which finally happened this year.
In July 2020, he partnered with fellow NBA star Chris Paul and retired NBA star Dwyane Wade to create the Social Change Fund with the goal of addressing social and economic justice issues facing Black communities and breaking down the discriminatory barriers to success.
Anthony has set his focus on championing criminal justice reform and inclusion, advocating for the human rights of all Black lives, expanding access to voting and civic engagement, increasing Black representation in government, and building economic equity in communities of color through investments in education, employment, wages, and housing.
He also serves on the Board of the NBA’s Social Justice Coalition, and is a long-time vocal advocate of justice system reform, voting reform and creating opportunities in Black communities.
In 2005, he launched the Carmelo Anthony Foundation, which focuses on education, recreation and community outreach in underserved communities. In the years since it was created, the Foundation has become a vehicle for actionable change and social reform through various outreach programs and initiatives.
Anthony’s reach, however, has traveled far beyond the cities he’s lived in (Brooklyn, Baltimore, Syracuse) or played for (Denver, New York City, Oklahoma City, Houston, Portland).
His father, Carmelo Iriarte, was of Puerto Rican heritage. He was a member of the Young Lords of New York during the 1960s and 1970s and also known for his activism and social justice efforts, before passing away when Anthony was just two-years-old.
As he has gotten older and learned more about his Afro-Latino Puerto Rican roots, Anthony has made sure to stay connected with the island, largely through charitable efforts.
When he started his Foundation, he made a pledge to build or rebuild at least one basketball court in Puerto Rican cities each year.
During the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017, Anthony also opened a relief fundraiser, which contributed to raising over $110,000 in donations.
Through his activism, entrepreneurship and philanthropy, Anthony has committed to dedicating much of his time over the past nearly two decades, helping create positive change in communities that need it most, making him a worthy choice as the first-ever Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award recipient.
“It's my hope that this award encourages others to help uplift those who have been historically marginalized or systematically disadvantaged, and do their part in making equality and justice for all,” Anthony told ESPN’s The Undefeated.