Harrison Barnes is much more than a basketball player. On Friday morning, that fact was acknowledged by the NBA when the Kings forward was announced as one of the five finalists for the newly formed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award.
According to the league’s official release, “the new annual award, named after six-time NBA champion and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 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.”
During his time in the league, Barnes has been known as a tremendous community activist. The Boys and Girls Club helped raise him in Ames, Iowa, and he’s been extremely generous to the organization in Dallas, Sacramento and his hometown.
As the coronavirus pandemic hit, Barnes stepped up to supply support to youth, families and frontline workers in Sacramento, Dallas and Ames.
Barnes has branched out in the last few years to include social justice initiatives around the United States. Along with his wife Brittany, Harrison dedicated each of the Kings’ eight games in the Orlando bubble to a different organization created by the families of victims of police brutality and gun violence, granting each a $25,000 donation.
He recently started a series called “Conversations with Harrison,” where he speaks with nonprofit and community leaders, educators, athletes, elected officials and business leaders with the hopes of promoting their work and bringing attention to their causes.
Earlier this year, Barnes partnered with Goalsetter, a Black-owned financial app, to help provide support and education to children about banking. He opened 500 savings accounts for children in underprivileged areas of Sacramento and Dallas.
Harrison and Brittany also paid for the funeral costs of Atatiana Jefferson, a Fort Worth woman who was shot and killed in her home by police in October of 2019.
During the 2020 election cycle, Barnes was a vocal advocate of getting people to the polls. He’s found his voice during the last few seasons and he doesn’t shy away from difficult discussions, including social justice, racism, politics and education.
Barnes was named to the NBA Foundation’s inaugural Board of Directors in October, which was formed to help guide the league’s efforts to promote economic empowerment in the Black community.
The winner of the award will be announced before Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. Juan Toscanco-Anderson of the Warriors, Carmelo Anthony of the Portland Trail Blazers, Jrue Holliday of the Milwaukee Bucks and Tobias Harris of the Philadelphia 76ers are the other finalists.
Barnes clearly is a strong candidate. Win or lose, Barnes is making a tremendous impact in communities around the US and he sets an incredible example for his teammates in Sacramento.