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NBA creates Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Award

Rich Fury / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty

The NBA announced Thursday the establishment of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award, a new distinction given annually to a player for "pursuing social justice and upholding the league's decades-long values of equality, respect, and inclusion."

"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."

A six-time NBA champion and the league's all-time leading scorer, Abdul-Jabbar has long been considered one of basketball's foremost voices in the area of social justice.

During his playing career, Abdul-Jabbar and other prominent Black athletes, including Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell and Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown, launched the Cleveland Summit to support boxer Muhammad Ali's decision not to participate in the Vietnam War.

While at UCLA, Abdul-Jabbar and sociologist Harry Edwards led the charge to boycott the 1968 Mexico City Games, motivated by the assassinations of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and the maltreatment of Black people in the United States.

"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."

The winner of the inaugural award will choose a charitable organization to receive a $100,000 prize, while the four other finalists will each select an organization to receive $25,000.

All 30 teams will nominate a player for the award. Finalists will be selected by a seven-person committee comprised of former NBA players, league executives, and social justice activists. The nominees and winner will be revealed during the upcoming NBA playoffs, which are set to begin May 22.

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