Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns was named a finalist by the NBA on Monday for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award. Per release, the award honors the NBA’s “most impactful social justice advocate who is continuing NBA players’ decades-long tradition of activism.”
The other four finalists are Dallas Mavericks wing Reggie Bullock, Milwaukee Bucks point guard Jrue Holiday, Memphis Grizzlies power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. and Toronto Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet. The winner will be announced on TNT’s Inside the NBA during the Western Conference Finals.
The NBA will donate $100,000 to the social justice non-profit selected by the award winner’s choice, while also committing $25,000 in donations to non-profits selected by each of the other four finalists.
Towns, who serves as a board member of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition, has selected the George Floyd Memorial Foundation. The foundation, as explained on its website, honors Floyd’s legacy by “uniting and activating our communities to challenge the root causes of racial inequity and end the systemic violence affecting Black Americans.”
“I am incredibly humbled to be named a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion finalist,” Towns said in a statement released by the team. “Equity across all spheres – health, social and civic is central to me as a person and as a player in this league. I join inspiring company in my fellow finalists and will continue to be an active participant in the advancement of social justice.”
The league honored Towns chiefly for his work to advance health equity and education, especially his advocation for vaccine education, in the wake of losing seven family members — including his mother Jacqueline —to COVID-19. Towns was one of several NBA players to partner with the United States Department of Health and Human Services in an appeal to the American people to get vaccinated.
I lost my mom to COVID. I have hope that others won’t experience this kind of loss now that we have vaccines to help prevent serious illness and death. Find vaccines near you at https://t.co/FTgIyzVrXF #WeCanDoThis #ad— Karl-Anthony Towns (@KarlTowns) April 16, 2022
Paid for by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services pic.twitter.com/60eYloAoBC
Towns collaborated with the league and Cue Health on promoting the COVID-19 vaccine, and helped facilitate the donation of COVID-19 testing kits to over 50 schools in Towns’ native New Jersey and adopted home of Minnesota.
He also joined forces with Walgreens on their “Get a Shot, Give a Shot” campaign that highlighted the importance of flu shots and donated $5,000 to the cause, per release.
In addition to his efforts as an advocate in the health and wellness space, the three-time All-Star was also recognized for championing two important causes close to his heart.
Towns last year donated $20,000 to the George Floyd Foundation and made a $30,000 contribution to the Vera Institute of Justice. The institute works to “end the over-criminalization and mass incarceration of people of color, immigrants, and people experiencing poverty,” per release. When the former No. 1 pick appeared on Celebrity Wheel of Fortune in January, he selected the Vera Institute of Justice as his beneficiary.
The league further honored Towns for his support of gender equity and access for women in sports.
Throughout his career, Towns has credited his mother for everything he has accomplished, both on and off the court.
“I just have so much to thank my mom for, because I feel like if I didn’t have her and my father and my sister, I don’t think I would have the character I have,” Towns said in a postgame interview late last season. “Nor would I have the strength to hold the character I have through what the NBA life contains and the job contains, as well.”
Tonight, we reserve a seat for Jacqueline Towns. Her light made the world a brighter and better place. pic.twitter.com/tKjCurditg— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) April 12, 2021
Towns donated to Kean University (located near his hometown of Edison, New Jersey) to advance programming for their women student athletes that highlights empowerment and internships. The University has named the series in honor of Towns’ late mother, whose light will continue to shine on not only through Towns and his philanthropic and social justice efforts, but also the women student athletes who benefit from the series.
The announcement comes two weeks after the NBA named Towns as one of 10 finalists for the league’s 2021-22 Season-Long NBA Cares Community Assist Award. Former Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio is one of the 10 finalists for that award, as well. Towns is one of two players (Jackson Jr.) who are finalists for both honors.
The NBA awarded Towns with the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for November.
Karl-Anthony Towns will be honored with the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for November in recognition of his support for homeless youth, the NBA today announced via release.— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) December 17, 2021
Towns partnered with the Timberwolves and Hy-Vee throughout November to host his Community Coat Drive.
The superstar big man is incredibly gracious with his time, energy and money, and clearly is fully committed to furthering causes he believes in. Greater Minneapolis and the Minnesota Timberwolves are exceedingly fortunate to have him as a pillar of their communities, wherein he will undoubtedly continue to serve and make a significant impact for years to come.