Daily Sports Smile: Reggie Bullock named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion

Victoria Hernandez
USA TODAY Sports+

While the NBA playoffs are in the heat of competition, one winner has already been crowned. Dallas Mavericks guard Reggie Bullock was named the 2021-22 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Sunday — an award give to those who "engage, empower and drive equality for individuals and groups who have been historically marginalized or systemically disadvantaged."

Bullock became passionate about working with the LGBTQ+ community after his sister's death. Mia Henderson, a transgender woman, was stabbed and killed in Baltimore in 2014. Bullock had just finished his first year with the Los Angeles Clippers when the rookie got the news. He commemorated Henderson with a tattoo bearing her name and "LGBTQ" on his leg and wrote her last name on his Nike "Equality" sneakers during a game.

“We are all one, and I believe love lies in everybody’s heart,” Bullock said. “It’s incredibly important to me as a cisgender athlete to stand in support of the trans and LGBTQ+ community.”

Detroit Pistons forward Reggie Bullock shows off his tattoo memorializing his late transgender sister, Mia Henderson.

Bullock uses his platform to advocate for equal treatment and an end to violence against trans people. He's hosted Pride Nights with various teams, spoke at the GLAAD Media Awards, marched in the NYC Pride Parade and created his own organization, RemarkaBULL Enterprise — which raises awareness about issues facing the LGBTQ+ community.

"The members of the selection committee were astounded by all the work that you've done for the LGBTQ community there in Dallas," Abdul-Jabbar told Bullock in presenting him the award via video call. "You've been visible and you've made a difference."

After arriving in Dallas last fall, Bullock joined several local groups that raise awareness about issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community and provide resources for trans individuals. One of them is the Muhlaysia Booker Foundation, which was founded to honor a trans woman who was shot to death in 2019.

Bullock was part of a conversation sponsored by the Mavericks with leaders from the organization to commemorate National Day of Trans Visibility where they discussed the heartache of losing a trans family member, difficulties that trans people face and how to be an ally.

“We look forward to working closely with Reggie and the Dallas Mavs as we bring awareness to this cause that is so badly needed," Ahmad Goree, President of the Muhlaysia Booker Foundation, said. “I would hope that more NBA players and other professional athletes and teams would do the same as Reggie and the Mavs.”

Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock (25) looks towards an official after a foul call during Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center.

As the winner of the Social Justice Champion award, Bullock received $100,000, which will be given to Kinston Teens, a youth-led organization in his North Carolina hometown that advocates for social change. 

The other nominees for this year's award were Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday, Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr., Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns and Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet. Each nominee was awarded $25,000 to be donated to an organization of their choice.

The award was established last season. Carmelo Anthony, who was applauded for his work raising awareness about systemic racism and the need for criminal justice reform, won the inaugural honor.