LeBron James Makes Up For MVP Snub With J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Win

LeBron James will not be the Most Valuable Player of the 2016-17 season of the National Basketball Association. He is, however, the winner of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.

According to NBA.com, James won the coveted award over Chicago Bulls main man Jimmy Butler, guard CJ McCollum of the Portland Trailblazers, Memphis Grizzlies veteran big man Zach Randolph, and high-scoring forward Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks. These players are the top five finalists out of a total of 26 candidates named by all NBA teams and voted upon by the Pro Basketball Writers Association or PBWA.

James earned the award for his work on “improving the educational opportunities of disadvantaged youth in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, and creating long-term change in his community,” as explained in a league press release. With the help of the 32-year-old forward’s LeBron James Family Foundation or LJFF, over 1,100 disadvantaged youth received help and guidance which motivated them to stay in school and pursue a college degree.

“LeBron James’ efforts to help young people are exemplary.”

PBWA President and Orlando Sentinel reporter Josh Robbins explained that LeBron “is making a difference, and so are the other 25 people who were nominated for this award.”

James takes a hands-on approach when it comes to the LJFF. The thirteen-time All-Star personally helps out the young people in his program while also participating in other projects of his foundation. LeBron takes the time to mentor the students and even writes them letters personally. James also pays for school uniforms and sponsors trips and gatherings such as the yearly “Family Reunion.” Last year’s event saw around 5,000 students and their families enjoy themselves at a local amusement park. LeBron also talks to the kids on the phone and often inviting them to watch him play live as a reward for their efforts in school. The gold medal-winning Olympian not only supports the youth’s education but also provides for some of their basic needs such as groceries and other necessities.

James is currently working on creating a public school called the I PROMISE School with the help of Akron Public Schools. LeBron has already launched the I PROMISE Institute at the University of Akron. Both projects are intended to help students in his program while they are still in school and even until they go to college to pursue their degrees. The future Hall of Famer’s philanthropic work proves that he is not only an MVP on the court but off it, as well.

A handful of Hall of Fame members are some of the notable players who have won the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, named after the second commissioner of the NBA. This exclusive list includes Julius Erving (1982-83), Isiah Thomas (1986-87), Earvin “Magic” Johnson (1991-92), Dikembe Mutombo (2000-01 and 2008-09), David Robinson (20012-03), and Reggie Miller (2003-04). Los Angeles Clippers head coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers won the award in 1989-90 while Samuel Dalembert, currently a free agent, was recognized in 2009-10 for his efforts in helping his countrymen after the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake. Former Washington Bullets All-Star forward Wes Unseld was the first ever recipient of the award which he took home after the 1974-75 season while Wayne Ellington of the Brooklyn Nets was last year’s winner.

NBA players are not the only ones eligible to win the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award. It may also be given to NBA coaches or personnel who show “outstanding service and dedication to the community.” The PBWA, as mentioned, decides who takes the award home. The group is made up of writers from various publications both written and online who cover the league regularly.

James was among the top performers vying for the prestigious Maurice Podoloff Trophy but was left out when the top three candidates were announced a few days ago. Fellow NBA superstars James Harden of the Houston Rockets, Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs, and Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook are left battling it out in what is considered as one of the tightest MVP races in NBA history. Ironically, Harden and Westbrook have already been eliminated from the playoffs while Leonard is currently nursing an injury and is unlikely to play in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

James and the Cavaliers, meanwhile, have been wreaking havoc since the regular season ended. LeBron, the self-proclaimed greatest of all-time is playing like he is indeed the GOAT. The Cavaliers swept the Indiana Pacers and the Toronto Raptors in its first two playoff series and is currently leading the embattled Boston Celtics, 2-0, in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The three remaining MVP candidates each had exemplary seasons showing their all-around games. Westbrook averaged a triple-double, Harden fell two rebounds short of doing the same while Leonard is a beast on both ends of the floor. Meanwhile, James, a four-time MVP, finished with “normal” averages of 26.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 8.7 assists per game with the latter two stats being career-highs. Despite the MVP snub, LeBron continues his brilliant play on the court as he chases his fourth NBA championship all while continuing to lend a helping hand to the community.

[Featured Image by Elise Amendola/AP Images]

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