Picture a room featuring some of the most influential names in activism. There are numerous CEOs, presidents, directors and a deputy commissioner for the league itself. And then there’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (no résumé needed).
However, there’s a young athlete that separates herself from the rest of the group — probably because there’s no decorated profile of her career — just yet. She’s only a junior in high school.
Meet Leah Harmon, the youth representative of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion selection committee.
Don’t be fooled by her age. At only 17, Harmon’s bio is impressive. She serves on the second cohort for Jr. NBA Court of Leaders and is a member of the 2022 Women’s U17 World Cup Team Trials and ranks No. 24 in her class nationwide. Did we mention she also has a 4.0 GPA?
It’s no surprise that Harmon is a perfect fit on the committee. Despite her youth, she has a powerful voice and recognizes the importance of her influence on other athletes her age.
“I feel like because we’re the next generation coming up, I think it’s important to hear our voices and [see] our perspectives,” Harmon said. “We’re the athletes, we’re playing — it’s just good to get that younger generation’s opinion to see where they’re coming from, what they think and how they look at things.”
As a child she was influenced by WNBA players and, while she has not quite yet accomplished that in her career, she uses her platform to inspire youth around her.
“Just setting a good example,” Harmon said. “Because I know that people look up to me [like] I looked at people when I was younger.”
This example had led her to opportunities across the league and beyond — culminating in a chance to crown the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion for the 2022-23 seasons. This year’s nominees include some of the leagues’ top talent on and off the court: Stephen Curry, Jaren Jackson Jr., Chris Paul, Tre Jones and Grant Williams.
Per Monday’s release, “the annual award 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.” The winner will be announced during the NBA conference finals.
Each nominee is an active part of their community, working in an effort to create interpersonal and systemic changes — something Harmon visualizes for her career, starting with more advancement for growth in women’s sports.
“[Playing] basketball, and being a girl, you sometimes see different treatment. But you know, just keep pushing because I feel like things are going to change and I see changes now,” Harmon said.
Harmon acknowledges that her presence on the board is just the beginning of her impact on youth, women, athletes and the public at large.
A goal for her — besides ultimately becoming a WNBA player — is to be herself, and let her work do the talking. The next step is bringing her career down to Miami to join the Hurricanes on the court. “Being an athlete, a young lady and African American – just showing other people that you can do what I do.”