The NBA is proud to announce the 10 nominees for the 2020-21 Season long NBA Cares Community Assist Award presented by Kaiser Permanente. Each of these players has shown an incredible commitment to their community and making a positive impact off the court.
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Below are the nominees.
Benefiting Charity: AP World
DeAndre’ Bembry has been dedicated to philanthropy since his start in the NBA. In memory of his brother Adrien, who passed away due to gun violence weeks prior to the 2016 NBA Draft, DeAndre’ founded the AP World organization, dedicated to creating safer communities and providing families with resources for managing and overcoming grief.
DeAndre’ has activated with AP World throughout the year including providing Thanksgiving meals for families, brand new coats for kids in need in partnership with Operation Warm for Children’s Aid in Toronto, and providing 500 pairs of brand-new shoes to Boys & Girls Club Youth in Indianapolis in February alongside Shoes that Fit. Ahead of National Gun Violence Survivors week in the first week of February, Bembry participated in a virtual roundtable discussion in an all-athletes panel to share his story and to advocate for gun safety.
This April, DeAndre’ participated in a virtual school assembly for Toronto’s Huddle Up Bullying Prevention Program, designed to prevent bullying, discrimination and racism by promoting a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion, while empowering students to take action. Bembry’s virtual presentation was broadcast to thousands of youth across 100 schools in Ontario in an effort to show students how to overcome the hard times and come out stronger.
As part of the 7th Annual National Gun Violence Awareness Day, Bembry is participating in a Wear Orange virtual panel to share his families story on June 4. Bembry’s commitment to safety due to gun violence is undeniable and inspiring to see how he’s turned such a heartbreaking event into a foundation that helps support other families who are overcoming grief.
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Benefiting Charity: Phoenix Suns Charities
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker received the May NBA Cares Community Assist Award presented by Kaiser Permanente in recognition of his continued commitment to support youth and families throughout the greater Phoenix area.
In May, Booker surprised five local nonprofit organizations at a Suns home game where he announced via an in-game, pre-recorded address that they were the 2020-21 class of the Devin Booker Starting Five initiative. Arizona Autism United, Central Arizona Shelter Services, YMCA of Southern Arizona, GAP Ministries and Elevate Phoenix each received a $100,000 grant from Booker to help address critical funding needs following the pandemic and support their respective efforts to improve the lives of local youth and families. To further celebrate and benefit the 2020-21 class, Booker and Phoenix Suns Charities created a limited-edition Devin Booker Starting Five hoodie commemorating the selected nonprofits. Designed by Booker, the first-of-their-kind hoodies were available for purchase for a limited time with all proceeds benefiting Phoenix Suns Charities.
The five organizations are the second class of the Devin Booker Starting Five, which donates $500,000 annually to five different youth-serving nonprofits in Arizona, a total of $2.5 million over the course of five years. The first class — Special Olympics Arizona, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, UMOM New Day Centers and Ability 360— received their $100,000 grants in late 2019. In addition to his Starting Five initiative, Booker has provided significant support to youth and families across the Valley through COVID-19 relief and holiday shopping sprees. He is also a Special Olympics Global Ambassador, actively promoting inclusion through sport.
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Benefiting Charity: Covenant House Pennsylvania
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid was honored with the Community Assist Award in March. That month, after being named an NBA All-Star starter for the fourth consecutive year, Embiid continued his efforts to combat homelessness in Philadelphia with a $100,000 contribution to three Philadelphia-based organizations: Youth Services Inc., Project HOME and Sunday Breakfast Mission. He also provided 15,000 meals to those in need, 4,000 essential clothing items, medical treatment for 1,000 housing insecure individuals, access to a six-week summer camp for 50 young people experiencing homelessness and shelter for more than 300 teens facing housing insecurity.
Embiid extended his support of local community members by assisting five families that had been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, providing each with gifts and clothing, groceries and housing rent relief for the next year.
Much of Embiid’s community efforts over the last year have focused on COVID-19 relief. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Embiid joined 76ers Managing Partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer to donate $1.3 million to Penn Medicine to develop antibody testing of frontline healthcare workers. As part of his continued support for healthcare workers, he pledged $500,000 through the #FirstRespondersFirst campaign, an initiative of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Thrive Global and the CAA Foundation, to provide PPE to frontline workers.
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Benefiting Charity: The Jrue and Lauren Holiday Social Impact Fund
Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday shared the January NBA Cares Community Assist Award presented by Kaiser Permanente with Dallas Mavericks guard Josh Richardson.
After joining the Bucks in November, Jrue and his wife, Lauren, partnered with the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation to identify small, women- and Black-owned businesses most in need of assistance. After reviewing grant requests, the Holiday family announced funding for seven local businesses in January – Amri Counseling Services, Carter’s Quality Care, Hands at Home, Jamaican Season Island Restaurant, Kid’s Kingdom, Legacy Home Health Services and The SW Retreat – that provide a variety of services in southeastern Wisconsin, including assisted living, home health, childcare, mental health and substance abuse services, hospitality and more.
Holiday has also made long-term commitments to assist communities important to him, including pledging the remainder of his 2020 NBA salary to create The Jrue and Lauren Holiday Social Justice Fund, which seeks to combat systemic racism and increase economic inequality by providing funding and support to Black-led organizations and businesses. Earlier this season, the fund announced support for 25 non-profits and historically Black institutions, as well as 23 Black-owned small businesses in Los Angeles, New Orleans and Indianapolis.
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Benefiting Charity: Special Olympics Oregon
Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard received the April NBA Cares Community Assist Award presented by Kaiser Permanente in recognition of his continued efforts to empower young people across Portland.
Since arriving in Portland in 2012, Lillard has focused on investing in and mentoring local high school-aged youth through his RESPECT program that supports, encourages and celebrates three Portland-area high schools – McDaniel, Parkrose and Roosevelt. This year amidst the global pandemic and the new virtual learning environment, RESPECT adjusted to maintain engagement with the students. Lillard committed to video visits to keep in contact with participants remotely and highlighted students and teachers that exemplified the principles of the program through his social media platforms. As schools returned to in-person learning, he provided RESPECT branded face masks for students and staff participating in the programs.
Lillard debuted a special RESPECT edition of his signature Dame7 shoe exclusively for the students in the program. The 500 pairs produced incorporated McDaniel, Parkrose and Roosevelt school colors and featured the three RESPECT principles: Show Up, Work Hard, and Be Kind. Lillard gifted the shoes to RESPECT’s partner schools to reward students who are living out each principle and wore the sneakers several times during the season. In addition to RESPECT, he continued his role as ambassador for the Moda Assist Program in partnership with Moda Health and the Trail Blazers, which donates $20 per assist made during the season to fund the development of all-ability inclusive playgrounds throughout the state of Oregon. This year, the city of Astoria has been selected to receive funds to help build an all-abilities playground and enhance their community.
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Benefiting Charity: Urban Indigenous Health
San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills took home the February NBA Cares Community Assist Award presented by Kaiser Permanente in recognition of his continued efforts to create opportunities that empower Indigenous young people and advance social justice in his native Australia.
In February, Indigenous Basketball Australia, which was founded by Mills to provide pathways for Aboriginal Australians to play basketball, tipped off the first-ever Indigenous Community Basketball League (ICBL) for players age 14 and under in eight locations across Australia. The tournaments, which preserve and celebrate Indigenous cultural practices, focus on basketball development and life skills education, including mental and physical well-being as well as strengthening individual identity at a critical age. Additionally, Mills partnered with the NBA and the Jr. NBA to announce the National Indigenous Basketball Tournament (NIBT) at the Gold Coast in Queensland from April 11-13, which will provide additional on- and off-court development opportunities for 48 boys and girls.
Mills has dedicated much of his professional playing career in the United States to giving back to Australia, with a particular focus on empowering Indigenous young people and communities of color. In 2020, he donated the remainder of his 2019-20 season salary to social justice organizations and helped launch the ‘We Got You’ campaign in collaboration with other high-profile Australian athletes, dedicated to eliminating racism, exclusion and discrimination in sports. Mills also organized a $750,000 donation from nine Australian NBA players in the wake of the devastating Australian bushfires earlier in the year.
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Benefiting Charity: Children’s Village
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell received the Offseason NBA Cares Community Assist Award presented by Kaiser Permanente in recognition of his continued efforts to advance social justice and champion education between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 NBA seasons.
In December, the Mitchell family pledged $12 million to Greenwich Country Day School, Donovan and his sister Jordan’s alma mater and the school where their mother, Nicole, taught for more than a decade. The contribution was the largest single donation in the school’s history and will be used to create the Mitchell Family Scholarship Fund to aid students from pre-K-12th grade, the Nicole Mitchell Faculty Support Fund to assist teachers who demonstrate the same passion for teaching as Nicole, as well as the new D.O.N.! The Determination Over Negativity Mitchell Family Athletic Center. This past summer, Mitchell also donated the proceeds of his Adidas D.O.N. Issue #2 sneakers to support the education of Jacob Blake’s children, students of color at the University of Louisville and teachers at preschools in Connecticut and the Bronx, totaling more than $300,000 in scholarships and academic assistance.
Following his unwavering commitment to speak out against racial injustice during the 2019-20 NBA season restart, Mitchell continued the conversation during the offseason, joining then vice-presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, Portland’s CJ McCollum and Philadelphia’s Tobias Harris for a discussion on educational, economic and social inequities. Mitchell was also named to the inaugural board of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition, which will leverage the game’s influence to raise awareness, educate and advocate for meaningful reform, and regularly gives back to those most in need through his SPIDACARES organization.
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Larry Nance Jr.
Benefiting Charity: Athletes vs. Chron’s
Larry Nance Jr. is a local hoops and community hero in his native Northeast Ohio. In response to COVID-19’s devastating impact on small businesses, Larry committed to using each regular season game to elevate pre-selected local businesses by donating all of the auction proceeds from his game worn jerseys. Both Larry and the Cavs match the proceeds – tripling the donation each small business receives.
Through his social media challenge, Larry received hundreds of packages from local businesses interested in being featured during his pregame walk-up. Additionally, the Cavs FieldHouse Creative Team features post-game interviews with the small business owners on Cavs digital assets to give fans a more in-depth look at the business and further showcase their story across the Northeast Ohio community.
As the Cavs season came to a close, Larry was able to raise over $222k and provided invaluable exposure for 72 deserving small businesses. In addition, Cavs corporate partner Westfield matched the dollars raised through Larry’s jersey auction with an additional $100K donation made to the Urban League of Greater Cleveland and the Akron Urban League, which both help support minority-owned businesses. Separately, in 2017, Larry launched the Athletes vs Chron’s and Colitis foundation aimed at raising awareness for both diseases among adolescents, and helping children realize their athletic potential despite the diagnoses.
During the pandemic, Larry used his platform to discuss the mental and physical impact COVID-19 has on those with pre-existing auto-immune conditions.
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Benefiting Charity: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors
Richardson, who joined the Mavericks shortly before the start of the 2020-21 season, quickly sought to make an impact in the greater Dallas area, surprising dozens of frontline health care workers from UT Southwestern Medical Center with Reebok sneakers, team merchandise and a surprise video message thanking them for their ongoing efforts to keep the community safe. He also visited a Dallas Independent School District first grade class as a guest reader, surprising the students and encouraging them to embrace reading and education during the particular challenges of this school year.
As the son of an Air Force servicewoman, Richardson has continued to work with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, which provides comfort, care and resources to family and friends grieving the death of a servicemember. For several years, he has developed a close relationship with his mentee, Elijah, through the program, and during the holiday season, he provided gifts for more than 20 families who have also lost a loved one in service.
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Benefiting Charity: Russell Westbrook Why Not? Foundation
Russell Westbrook continues to leave his legacy in communities he both lives and plays in. While settling in to a new team market, Westbrook teamed up with the LA Promise Fund to launch the Russell Westbrook Why Not? Academy in his hometown of Los Angeles. This academy, serving students from middle school to high school, will create better access to educational services and outdoor opportunities for children and the community at large in south Los Angeles. In 2012, Russell founded The Why Not? Foundation with the ultimate goal of providing services to at-risk populations, including education, mental health resources and workforce tools, and encouraging young people to think outside the box, pursue their dreams and never give up despite the odds stacked up against them. In November, Russell and his foundation partnered with the L.A. Regional Food Bank to distribute Thanksgiving meals for the ninth-straight year to residents of Los Angeles.
In December, Russell hosted a special Christmas sneaker shoe giveaway for the entire student body at The Children’s Guild District of Columbia Public Charter School, a school serving students, many of whom come from homeless or unstable housing. In February, Russell joined Varo Bank as an advisor in an effort to improve income inequalities through programs to improve financial literacy within the minority community. In addition to Westbrook’s direct community outreach, he has also taken initiative in educating communities on various inequities sustained by Black people in America over the course of history.
Russell announced in April that he was producing a documentary on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, an event often overlooked and untaught in American history, which will debut on May 30.