Daily Sports Smile: NBA reveals finalists for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award

Jaylon Thompson
USA TODAY Sports+

The NBA continues to highlight important social justice issues in the community.

This week, the league revealed five finalists for the annual Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award. The prestigious honor recognizes a current player that has made a strong commitment to activism this season.

The finalists include Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday, Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr., Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock and Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet.

Feb 20, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) warms up before the 2022 NBA All-Star Game at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA will also make an $100,000 donation to a social justice organization of the winner’s choosing. The league will also contribute a $25,000 donation to each of the remaining finalists' special organizations of choice.

 This season, each finalist have made strides for underrepresented groups.

Holiday has supported several Black businesses in the Milwaukee area. Through his social justice fund, Holiday and his wife, Lauren, helped provide grants for local minority non-profits. Holiday has also been involved in advocating for voting rights awareness as well.

Bucks guard Jrue Holiday (21) reacts during the second half against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center.

In Memphis, Jackson Jr. helped raise awareness for health and economic equity in the community. He later provided custom masks for minority families and meals for workers on the front lines at COVID-19 testing locations.

This season, Jackson Jr. was also recognized with the NBA Cares Community Assist Award. He helped alleviate housing costs for multiple families during the holidays.

Towns also received the special community award in November. He played a big role in a league PSA to encourage vaccine education and best practices. He also donated $20,000 to the George Floyd Foundation and has continued to support gender equality in sports.

Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) reacts in the first quarter during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum.

VanVleet also furthered education in his own way. He created the Fred VanVleet Scholarship for Black and Indigenous students in Canada. He also was apart of the "Bet on Yourself" social justice podcast to spread a positive light on BIPOC entrepreneurs in the community.

Bullock rounds out the finalists. This season, he has advocated for LGBTQ equality by working to create inclusive communities through different local organizations. For his efforts, he also created the RemarkaBULL organization to help develop revitalized spaces for the LGBTQ community.

The finalists were selected by a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Committee. Each player has demonstrated a push towards empowering groups that are marginalized and systematically disadvantaged.

The NBA will announce the winner during the Western Conference Finals.