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Bob Dixon

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Towns Wins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award

NEW YORK – Kentucky great Karl-Anthony Towns has been awarded the 2023-24 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award it was announced by the NBA League Office on Thursday. He will be presented the award prior to the third game of the Western Conference semifinals on Friday against the Denver Nuggets.

Then-Kentucky star Karl-Anthony Towns in action during the 2015 SEC Tournament. (Photo by Jamie H. Vaught)

The award is in its fourth year. All 30 NBA teams nominate one player from their roster to be the winner. Finalists and the winner are selected by a committee composed of NBA legends, league executives and social justice leaders. A $100,000 contribution is made on the winner’s behalf by the NBA to an organization of his selection. Towns chose his donation to go to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities to advance health equity.


Towns joins Carmelo Anthony (2021), Reggie Bullock (2022) and Stephen Curry (2023) as the winners of the award.


Other finalists in 2023-24 included another UK star in Bam Adebayo. He will receive $25,000 for an organization on his behalf for being a finalist.


Towns’ honor in 2023-24 has been sparked by serving as an advocate of voting rights. He played a major role in helping with the passage of Minnesota’s Restore the Vote bill, a bipartisan legislation that restored the right to vote for more than 55,000 former incarcerated individuals. Towns is also an executive producer and key investor in the documentary Forgiving Johnny, which details how digital transformation has aided change in the legal justice system. Furthermore, he provided funding to the film Origin and is a board member of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition.


The Piscataway, New Jersey, native has been a mainstay in the community since entering the NBA as the No. 1 overall pick in 2015. In November of 2021, he was awarded the month-long NBA Cares Community Assist Award. Towns’ sustained community outreach efforts have been focused on youth, health and wellness and social justice.


In May of 2021, Towns participated in “A Conversation on Policing Reform” hosted by the NBSJC with other members of the NBA family and lawmakers to discuss police reform.


Following the death of his mother, Jackie, to COVID-19 early in the pandemic, Towns focused on supporting issues related to the virus, including providing donations to the Mayo Clinic to assist with testing capabilities and availability. He continues to support vaccine education and awareness.


Towns also has a foundation, KAT Team. Its mission is to create a scholarship fund for young adults throughout the United States to increase literacy in underserved communities. KAT Team partners with the United Negro College Fund, which is the largest and most effective minority education organization in the country.


He has also partnered with the House of Charity Food Center in Minneapolis, The Salvation Army and HopeKids throughout his professional career.


Towns is a four-time NBA All-Star and was the 2015-16 NBA Rookie of the Year. He is also a two-time All-NBA selection and is in his ninth year with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Towns and the Wolves captured their first NBA playoff series victory since 2014 with a four-game sweep of the Phoenix Suns and are 2-0 against the defending champion Denver Nuggets. Minnesota’s win over Phoenix marked its first playoff series sweep in franchise history.


In six playoff games in 2024, Towns is logging 20.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, while shooting 57.1% from the field and 53.8% from 3-point range.


He was one of the centerpieces of the historic Kentucky 2014-15 team that flirted with a perfect season. Towns was an NCAA Consensus Second Team All-American and Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year. Towns averaged 13.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. He was a three-time SEC Freshman of the Week selection and registered the most 15-plus point games with eight that season.


Selected for his fourth NBA All-Star appearance in 2023-24, Towns averaged 21.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Wolves who capped the season 56-26 overall and finished third in the rugged Western Conference. It was the most victories in the franchise’s history since winning 58 games in 2003-04.


Kentucky men’s basketball alumni continue to make a major impact on the NBA scene. UK led the country for the 12th straight season with 26 former student-athletes on NBA opening day rosters in 2023-24, while also pacing the nation with 22 representatives in the NBA Playoffs. At the 2024 NBA All-Star game, the Wildcats made history with a record-breaking seven players earning All-Star nods, breaking the previous high mark of four. 

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