Earlier this season it was announced that the NBA had created a new Social Justice Champion Award named after Los Angeles Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The recipient of the inaugural award would be current Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony.
Abdul-Jabbar did present Anthony with the award, but it was via a video message. While the honor was still there for Anthony, especially as the inaugural winner of such an important off-court award, it doesn’t quite add up to being given the award in person from a legend like Abdul-Jabbar.
Prior to the Lakers’ contest against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, Abdul-Jabbar himself would present Anthony with the physical award and afterward, Carmelo would discuss how important receiving the award is to him.
“I think we all know how important that award was when I first received it from Kareem,” Anthony said. “We all know how important that award is today, but the fact that he was able to present me with the actual physical award. Him being there just what that award means to myself, what that award means to my community to my people to my fans and to my family.
“At the end of the day, having that in the house and understanding everything that comes along with that. The responsibility that comes with that, the accountability that come with that, and to be able to say that I was the first one to receive that award. It’s hard to explain what that feels like. It’s an honor for me to receive that and I’m glad Kareem actually having an award that’s named after him.”
Kareem’s off-court work is undeniable and he is truly held in high regard amongst current players for everything he’s done. In fact, Anthony admits that he knew about Abdul-Jabbar off the court before he knew how great he was on it.
“I was always taught things about Kareem off the court and what he stood for before I even paid attention to him as a basketball player,” Anthony added. “Not to say I wasn’t a fan of his, but I never seen him play before. I know what he stood for and those was the messages that was kind of instilled in me in my community as far as what he stood for.
“His fight, his social injustice fight for so long even when people was saying he wasn’t speaking or he wasn’t talking. He still was powerful and for him to be able to tell those story and guide this new generation and give us advice and let us still see him and let us still praise him and give him his flowers while he’s still here. When it comes to athletes and social justice, he’s at the top.”
It’s no secret that Abdul-Jabbar wasn’t the most beloved person during his playing days as many viewed him as mean and standoffish. But his legacy has only grown throughout time and he remains one of the most respected legends because of this.
While he remains outspoken about issues he sees and has no issue calling out people when he deems it necessary, Abdul-Jabbar is still beloved and Anthony obviously gets great joy at being the inaugural recipient of this new award.
Vogel commends Anthony for receiving award
Anthony receiving the Social Justice Champion award was truly a great honor and head coach Frank Vogel praised him for what he’s done.
“I want to start by commending Carmelo Anthony for being honored as the league’s social justice champion this year,” Vogel said. “It’s a great honor for him. It makes the Lakers proud. It’s an important cause for our league and for our team and to see him get that award is a big deal for us. I want to start by commending him for that.”
“He’s been a great team guy and obviously very active in the community in regards to social justice and everything our league has been fighting for around that topic. He’s just been great for us. Just seeing him get this award is a really positive feeling for our whole group.”
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