Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony, Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes, Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris and Golden State Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson are the finalists for the inaugural Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award, the NBA announced Friday.
The award, named after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the league’s all-time leading scorer, is given to the player who best embodies Abdul-Jabbar’s message of civil rights, Black empowerment and racial equality.
The five finalists, whittled down from an original list of 30 nominees, one from each team, are in consideration for a $100,000 award that the league will donate to a social justice-focused organization of the winner’s choosing. The four other finalists will receive $25,000 donations.
Anthony, alongside Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul and former NBA guard Dwyane Wade, created the Social Change Fund in July 2020. The fund is an investment organization that strives to address the social and economic issues facing Black communities, including voting, housing and education. He also established the STAYME7O Propel Program and Creative 7, initiatives focused on content creation, fashion, art and design. Anthony is also a board member of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition. His designated organization is the Portland Art Museum’s Black Arts and Experiences Initiative.
During the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, Barnes worked with Be.Woke.Vote, a get-out-the-vote campaign aimed at historically disenfranchised young people. While in last season’s bubble, Barnes pledged $200,000 to organizations and foundations that combat police brutality and racial inequality, including the family foundations of slain Black men and boys, including Trayvon Martin, Botham Jean, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Jordan Davis. The ninth-year forward also advocates for financial literacy, partnering with a Black-owned finance app and opening savings accounts for 500 students in Dallas and Sacramento, California. Barnes’ organization is the Center for Policing Equity.
“It’s really taking a torch, carrying it, and passing it off to the next generation,” Barnes told The Undefeated. “I realized back in the day it wasn’t easy, as it is now, to take a stand. It wasn’t as supported and as open of an environment in the NBA today as it was … back when someone like Kareem was playing.
“So to be able to have this platform of the game of basketball in society, to be able to speak about these issues that are going on in these Black and brown communities that are not getting as much light, highlighting people who are doing good work, assisting, whether financially, with our time, with our voices, and continuing to push the ball forward so that the next generation of athletes feel bold enough and have the courage to continue to use this platform that so many people before us have built, and now we’re just continuing to push forward.”
Holiday, who won the league’s Joe Dumars Trophy for sportsmanship last week, established the Jrue and Lauren Holiday Social Impact Fund, along with his wife, who is a former United States women’s national soccer team midfielder, last summer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and global anti-racism protests after the murder of George Floyd. The fund provided grants to 50 Black-owned businesses and Black-led organizations in the New Orleans, Indianapolis and Los Angeles areas in November. His organization is the EXPO of Wisconsin.
Harris, through the Tobias Harris Charitable Fund, awarded $300,000 to The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia to recruit teachers from historically Black colleges and universities, and created the Tobias’ Top Teachers program, which funds professional development workshops and purchases classroom supplies for teachers to help recruit and retain Black male educators. Through his Lit Labs program, Harris donated 30,000 books to 8,000 Philadelphia school children. His organization is the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia.
Toscano-Anderson, an Oakland native, established the Journey to Achieve Foundation to help people of color in the Bay Area, Santa Cruz, California, and Mexico. The second-year forward, whose mother is Mexican and father is Black, took part in the Warriors’ Voters Win campaign during the 2020 election, emphasizing voting for Black and Latino communities. Toscano-Anderson’s organization is Homies Empowerment.
The finalists were selected by a panel comprising Abdul-Jabbar; Dr. Richard Lapchick, the director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport; Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League; Janet Murguía, president and CEO of UnidosUS; Amanda Nguyen, founder and CEO of Rise; NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum; and Teyonna Lofton, a student activist from Chicago.
The winner of the award will be announced before Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.