Stephen Curry wins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award

ByMartenzie Johnson ESPN logo
Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry was named the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award winner, the NBA announced Tuesday.

The honor, named after the six-time NBA MVP and No. 2 on the career scoring list, is given to the player who best embodies Abdul-Jabbar's message of civil rights, Black empowerment and racial equality.

Curry -- a four-time NBA champion and two-time MVP -- was selected based on his work in advocating for voting rights, gender and racial equity in sports, and food scarcity in underserved communities.

Curry is the co-chair of former first lady Michelle Obama's "When We All Vote" initiative, along with athletes Chris Paul and Megan Rapinoe, and singer-actress Janelle Monae. The initiative's mission is to "increase participation in each and every election by helping to close the race and age gap," according to its website. Additionally, as a participant in the league's and player union's joint social justice-focused coalition, Curry has pushed for the passage of the Freedom to Vote Act, which seeks to expand voter registration and voting access. (The bill, introduced in September 2021, was blocked by Republican senators.)

Through his UNDERRATED brand, Curry has provided scholarships for high school athletes, and in 2019 announced a six-year, $6 million commitment to fund the men's and women's golf teams at historically Black Howard University.

Along with his wife, Ayesha, Curry continues to run the couple's Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation, which focuses on childhood nutrition and physical activity in Oakland, California, where the Warriors played until moving to San Francisco in 2019. According to the NBA's news release, Eat. Learn. Play. has provided over 2 million meals and 500,000 books to Oakland students and remodeled four playgrounds in the city.

The winner of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award is gifted $100,000 to the charity of his choice. For Curry, that is the University of San Francisco Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice, which according to its website, "investigates, illuminates, and advances the theory and practice of transformational nonviolence to confront and overcome injustice and systemic violence and contribute to the just resolution of communal conflict."

"We are humbled and deeply honored to receive this extraordinary gift, enabling us to magnify the impact of our community partnerships and initiatives," said Jonathan D. Greenberg, director of the University of San Francisco Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice, in a statement provided to Andscape. "Stephen Curry is a tremendous, inspiring hero on and off the basketball court, a dedicated activist, leader and humanitarian, and we congratulate him on this incredible award and share our deepest gratitude."

Curry was named a finalist alongside Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr., San Antonio Spurs guard Tre Jones, Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul and Boston Celtics forward Grant Williams. The four finalists will be awarded $25,000 a piece toward their respective social justice-focused organizations.

Curry joins Dallas Mavericks guard Reggie Bullock (2022) and inaugural winner Carmelo Anthony (2021) as recipients of the award.

"As an athlete, I consistently leverage my platform to amplify advocacy and address the pervasive issue of systemic racism," Curry said in a statement. "I firmly believe that we must be vocal both on social media and in real life, taking tangible actions to effect real change in our society and for generations to come."

The award is voted on by a committee composed of Abdul-Jabbar, National Urban League president and CEO Marc Morial and NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, among others.

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