NEW YORK – The NBA today announced that Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, Memphis Grizzlies forward-center Jaren Jackson Jr., San Antonio Spurs guard Tre Jones, Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul and Boston Celtics forward Grant Williams have been selected as the five finalists for the 2022-23 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award. The five finalists represent the year’s most impactful social justice advocates who are continuing NBA players’ decades-long tradition of activism. The annual award recognizes a current NBA player for 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 finalists were determined from the pool of team nominees by the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion selection committee, comprised of the following social justice leaders and members of the NBA family: Abdul-Jabbar, Director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport Dr. Richard Lapchick, 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 are in their third year on the committee, as well as Leah Harmon, the 2022-23 youth representative and member of the Jr. NBA Court of Leaders.
The winner of the 2022-23 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award will be announced during 2023 NBA Conference Finals and will receive a $100,000 donation from the NBA for a social justice organization of his choosing. The other four finalists will each select a social justice organization to receive a $25,000 contribution on their behalf. Dallas Mavericks guard-forward Reggie Bullock was named as the second Social Justice Champion at the end of the 2021-22 season.
About the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Finalists
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry continues to uplift historically marginalized communities and foster equity through opportunity and engagement. As a co-chair of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote initiative, Curry used his platform to drive voter registration, education and turnout in the midterm elections. His participation encapsulated millions of new voters, encouraging them to participate in the political process and lift their circumstances through civic engagement.
During a trip to Washington D.C. in January, Curry visited the White House alongside the Warriors to celebrate their 2021-22 NBA Championship. He utilized the visit to engage directly with President Biden on policy matters and participated in a White House press briefing with Coach Steve Kerr to publicly address issues around community safety. Among his other efforts, Curry committed $6 million in funding to the men’s and women’s golf team at Howard University, which hadn’t been active for 50 years, and hosted students from Black Cultural Zone – a nonprofit that focuses on building power, securing land and directing more dollars to community driven projects in East Oakland – at a Warriors home game.
Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
Jaren Jackson Jr. focuses his pursuit of social justice on issues related to educational and economic opportunity, as well as civic engagement and women’s empowerment. To tip off the 2022-23 season, Jackson Jr. provided classroom essentials for teachers from a local Memphis school to prepare for the upcoming school year, delivering these resources in person to thank the teachers directly for their hard work. To support women’s empowerment, Jackson Jr. provided tickets to local women-led organizations during Women’s History Month and sponsored organizations to attend the University of Memphis women’s basketball team’s final home game, covering the cost of the tickets, transportation and food and beverage for all attendees.
Around economic justice – specifically around economically displaced communities throughout the Mid-South – Jackson Jr. committed $7,500 to assist 13 families in eliminating their overdue housing and utility bills, working closely with MLGW and MIFA, whose mission is to support the independence of vulnerable seniors and families in crisis through high-impact programs. He also donated $50,000 through his “Much Required” campaign to help support local youth-serving nonprofits – Arrow Creative, LITE Memphis and Man UP Teacher Fellowship. Lastly, Jackson Jr. continued his commitment to increasing civic engagement, creating a PSA to inform eligible voters that “every election matter, every vote matters, and every voter matters.”
Tre Jones, San Antonio Spurs
During his first three years with the San Antonio Spurs, Tre Jones has fostered a special connection with the San Antonio community by advancing physical and mental well-being as a function of health equity. In wake of the May 24, 2022, shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde County, Jones formed a special relationship with the Tree City Spurs, a 9 to 11-year-old girls basketball team in Uvalde’s Parks & Recreation League, who lost two players in the tragic shooting and had other teammates sustain serious injuries. The championship-winning team takes pride in modeling itself after the San Antonio Spurs, and Jones made it a priority to invest his time in their healing process. Jones joined the team on multiple occasions, including hosting the young girls and their families at the Spurs practice facility as a way to uplift their spirits in the aftermath of the horrific tragedy.
Jones’ commitment to the well-being of local youth extended into his role as an ambassador to the Spurs Youth Basketball League, which was created to serve youth in economically under-resourced areas. He regularly works with youth to teach the principles of teamwork, cooperation, respect and discipline while creating a positive environment. Among his other efforts, Jones supported an effort led by a local nine-year-old to provide food, water and other essentials for individuals experiencing homelessness and also donated a mobile gaming system to encourage the well-being of youth patients of Methodist Children’s Hospital in December 2022.
Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns
Chris Paul’s personal connection to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) drives his unwavering support for the institutions, their students and alumni. Paul supplements pipelines for HBCU graduates, recognizing their potential to diversify traditional workplaces. In addition to graduating from Winston-Salem State University in December 2022, he has also hosted two HBCU basketball tournaments to increase national exposure for student-athletes and created a “Business of Entertainment, Media, and Sports” case-study-based course that is expanding to HBCUs nationwide.
Paul also provided much needed financial support to HBCU students and graduates, endowing scholarships, creating summer internships and providing more than $55,000 in grants to Black-owned businesses through Social Change Fund United. Additionally, as part of his passion for civic engagement, he worked alongside former First Lady Michelle Obama to increase student voting engagement for the 2022 midterms by 40 percent. The only athlete appointed to President Joe Biden’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs, Paul’s political participation enables him to amplify the importance of the HBCU experience.
Grant Williams, Boston Celtics
Grant Williams has been a passionate advocate for social justice efforts, specifically criminal justice reform. Williams helped to lead the team’s Play for Justice event in September 2022, which served as a catalyst for advocating for Massachusetts to pass the “Raise the Age” bill to gradually raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction to include 18 to 20-year-olds. During the event (in which formerly incarcerated individuals visited the team’s practice facility), Williams was one of the central voices during the roundtable discussion. He took his interactions a step further, coaching one of the teams comprised of formerly incarcerated individuals when they played together in an exhibition basketball game. After the Play for Justice event, Williams took it upon himself to continue his efforts, visiting a juvenile incarceration facility soon followed by an adult prison to work with a cell-block unit comprised of fathers trying to break the incarceration cycle for their own children.
Williams has also been the leading player voice behind the Celtics’ Playbook Initiative, a program which trains and deploys high school students to facilitate workshops with middle school populations. The program equips young people with the tools to safely intervene when they see or hear acts of bias or discrimination in their community. Williams helped to run the workshops as both a facilitator of the curriculum and a participant alongside the students. As a result of Williams and other’s contributions, the program is now endorsed by the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents as their recommended model for combatting school-based hate speech. Williams has also worked to address Black maternal health inequities and played an instrumental role in the creation and launch of a Celtics program called Curbside Care, a life-saving mobile pre-natal and post-partum health clinic that visits 40 mothers and infants per week in the heart of Boston’s Black and Brown community. This vehicle is equipped with full time nurses, midwives and community advocates and eliminates barriers that contributes to Black and Brown mother’s being three-times more likely to die in childbirth or from post-delivery complications.