C.J. McCollum 2023-24 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award Recipient


C J McCollum, an 11-year veteran guard for the New Orleans Pelicans, has been awarded the prestigious 2023-24 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, as administered and selected by the Professional Basketball Writers Association (PBWA). This honor, named after the NBA’s second commissioner, is presented annually to a player, coach, or athletic trainer who demonstrates outstanding service and dedication to the community.

McCollum, 32, has been recognized for his extensive community efforts in and around New Orleans, particularly focusing on education, social justice reform, and providing equitable resources and opportunities for youth. His commitment to these causes has distinguished him among his peers and earned him this significant accolade.

The PBWA named McCollum as one of five finalists for the award, alongside Miami Heat assistant coach Caron Butler, Washington Wizards forward Anthony Gill, Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving, and Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. The finalists were selected by a committee of PBWA members from nominations submitted by NBA teams, with the winner chosen through a vote of the entire PBWA, composed of over 200 writers and editors covering the NBA.

“C.J.’s passion, generosity, and commitment to improving the lives of the youth in his community is truly impressive,” said PBWA President Howard Beck of The Ringer. “The members of the Professional Basketball Writers Association salute him and all the nominees for their inspiring work.”

Among McCollum’s notable initiatives is the McCollum Scholars program, launched in January in partnership with the nonprofit College Beyond. This needs-based scholarship program provides eleven New Orleans students with $100,000 each (totaling $1.1 million) to pursue four-year degrees. In addition to financial support, McCollum Scholars receive academic coaching services, mental wellness resources, career preparation, and internship placements. The program aims to bridge the education, literacy, and racial wealth gaps, creating pathways to post-secondary degrees.

In March, McCollum opened the CJ McCollum Dream Center at the Westbank Boys and Girls Club of Metro Louisiana. This innovative hub is equipped with new laptops and tablets, smart boards, laser printers, a library, virtual reality headsets, and a podcast studio. It is the third Dream Center McCollum has established and the first in Louisiana since he joined the Pelicans in February 2022. McCollum envisions these centers as beacons of hope and safe havens where youth can explore, learn, and grow.

Additionally, last October, McCollum collaborated with the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights and the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition to visit the Juvenile Justice Intervention Center and Travis Hill School in New Orleans. The school focuses on rehabilitation and education within the justice system. During his visit, McCollum engaged with students aged 13 to 18, sharing his personal journey and emphasizing the importance of education and resilience.

Beyond his community work, McCollum also serves as the president of the National Basketball Players Association. On the court, he had an impressive season, averaging 20 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.6 assists in 66 games for the Pelicans.

C.J. McCollum’s dedication to community service and his impactful initiatives have not only earned him the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award but have also made a significant difference in the lives of many young people in New Orleans. His efforts exemplify the spirit of the award and highlight the profound influence athletes can have off the court.


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