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Carmelo Anthony named NBA’s inaugural Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion: ‘Humbled, honored, and motivated’

After a season in which he vaulted into the top 10 of the NBA’s all-time scoring list, Carmelo Anthony is being recognized for his work off the court.

The NBA announced Tuesday that the 10-time NBA All-Star, a West Baltimore native and former Towson Catholic star, has been named the inaugural Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion.

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Anthony, who currently plays for the Portland Trail Blazers after stints with the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets, was selected from a group of five finalists “for his dedication over the past year to pursuing social justice and advancing Abdul-Jabbar’s life mission to engage, empower and drive equality for individuals and groups who have been historically marginalized or systemically disadvantaged,” the NBA said.

“Humbled, honored, and motivated to live up to the namesake of this inaugural award,” Anthony wrote on Twitter. “I can promise that I’ll continue to carry the torch and shine a light in the places that need it most.”

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In July 2020, Anthony partnered with 11-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns and former NBA star Dwyane Wade to create the Social Change Fund, which aims to address social and economic justice issues facing Black communities and break down the discriminatory barriers to success. Through the fund, Anthony is focused on critical issues including 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 investment in education, employment, wages and housing.

Last summer, Anthony also served as guest editor-in-chief for SLAM magazine’s special Social Justice issue that featured the game’s most influential activists, including Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell and Sheryl Swoopes.

In March, Anthony partnered with 94-year-old activist Ms. Opal Lee to raise awareness of Juneteenth and advocate for the day to become a national holiday, which was ultimately signed into law this month through the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. He was also the featured voice in a campaign with the Vera Institute of Justice to promote criminal justice reform. Most recently, Anthony announced the launch of Creative 7 Productions, which he co-founded to champion inclusive, purpose-driven storytelling from diverse voices.

Anthony was also instrumental in the launch of the Trail Blazers Racial Injustice Initiative, a program that has provided more than $200,000 in funding to organizations fighting systemic racism. Anthony also serves as one of the players on the board of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition.

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“We have a long way to go,” Anthony told NBA.com after winning the award. “But I do see progress, I see the trajectory going in a nice direction. And I just want to help keep it there. I just want to continue the conversations, continue talking to the people. And the most important thing is continuing to listen to people. Because when you listen closely, you’re going to hear something and you’re going to hear a lot of important gems and things that you can actually take into consideration and move forward.”

Anthony continues to focus on social reform through the Carmelo Anthony Foundation, which he founded over 15 years ago as a vehicle for actionable change and social reform through a variety of outreach programs, disaster relief initiatives and donations. His forthcoming memoir, “Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised,” will give a look into Anthony’s upbringing and draws attention to the social, health and economic inequities in communities of color. The book will be released on Sept. 14, 2021.

Anthony has selected the Portland Art Museum’s Black Arts and Experiences Initiative to receive a $100,000 contribution on his behalf. The winner of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award was determined by a selection committee composed of Abdul-Jabbar, Director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport Dr. Richard Lapchick, student activist Teyonna Lofton, National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial, UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía, Rise Founder and CEO Amanda Nguyen, and NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum.

The four other finalists for the award were Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes, Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris, Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday and Golden State Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson.

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