Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been fighting for social justice since he retired

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a big part of the LA Lakers’ history, given his 20-year affiliation with the franchise. He finished his career with six NBA titles and was named an All-Star in all but one season – which is a testament to his popularity.

Kareem-Abdul Jabbar has been a facilitator of change ever since he retired from the league in 1989, using his influence to fight for racial equality. He spoke on the subject in the latest docuseries titled Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers. Abdul-Jabbar spoke about how athletes’ voices mostly remained unheard – and how he was inspired by a select few.

“My idols were Bill Russell, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, and Arthur Ashe because they spoke out against racism when no one wanted to hear what an athlete had to say about social or political issues,” wrote Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on his Substack.

Athletes like Bill Russell, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, and Arthur Ashe competed professionally in much tougher times. Although it was safer for them to go about their sporting business, they realized the strength of the platform they have access to – and used it to voice out their beliefs.

During that era, it was the voices of the most successful individuals that were heard the most. But as time went by, protests emerged in rap songs – with the lyrics insinuating injustice.

People of color were subject to police brutality, which was something a lot of rap music highlighted at the time. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recollected the growth of rap culture in the NBA, which was pivotal in pushing athletes into expressing themselves.

“It is undeniable that rap culture brought with it a defiance of the social norm that was attractive to young NBA players as well as the rest of the youth culture of the time.

“Protest became not just a statement, but a lifestyle. It made serious inroads into pop culture, though mainstream culture still resisted. Still, it was clear that the change in how athletes would proceed was inevitable.

“True heroes would arise out of the trendiness and speak out, even when it threatened their career. Rap culture helped accelerate that process,” wrote Abdul-Jabbar.

The NBA’s stand towards social justice, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The NBA is fully aware of the work Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has put in towards his fight for social justice. In a two-fold attempt to recognize his efforts and inspire future change makers, the NBA announced the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award from the 2020-21 season.

All NBA teams are asked to nominate one player from their roster, who is worthy of the award based on their efforts. The finalists and winner will be selected by a committee composed of NBA legends, league executives and social justice leaders.

Carmelo Anthony presents the NBA Legends Social Justice Award to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the 22nd Annual NBA Legends Awards. #NBA75 https://t.co/9KvEqUMh0Z

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had nothing but words of praise for Abdul-Jabbar when he announced the award, as he said:

“In addition to being one of our greatest players, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has devoted much of his life to advocating for equality and social justice.

“With this new award, we are proud to recognize and celebrate NBA players who are using their influence to make an impact on their communities and our broader society.”

Two seasons have passed since then, with Carmelo Anthony and Reggie Bullock earning the honor so far.

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