NBA

CJ McCollum earns NBA Citizenship Award: ‘Helping people is the greatest gift’

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Even though CJ McCollum was essential for New Orleans‘ success this season, helping his team reach the first round of the playoffs, only to fall against Oklahoma City, he has just been recognized for his efforts outside the NBA courts. This Monday, the league announced that the veteran guard has been rewarded with the 2023/24 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award. 

The Pelicans star won the race against fellow finalists Karen Jackson Jr. from Memphis, Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving, Anthony Gill from Washington and Heat assistant coach Caron Butler. This accolade is presented yearly “by the PBWA to a player, coach or athletic trainer who shows outstanding service and dedication to the community.”

According to McCollum, the most important thing in life is to serve others, especially when he can experience the gratitude and impact of his contributions. “Helping people is the greatest gift in the world,” CJ told the press.

“And out of all the things that I’ve been able to do in my life, the greatest joy I get is in seeing people genuinely appreciate it, whether that’s conversations, whether that’s health, whether that’s resources, whether that is an opportunity,” he added.

The 32-year-old continued to explain about the greatest reward for helping others. “Seeing the look on some of these kids and their family’s faces and some of my interactions with them is something that I’ll hold onto forever,” the player expressed. “And genuinely seeing how appreciative everyone has been from me helping people has taught me a great sense of empathy.”

One of his most important projects was his partnership with the non-profit College Beyond to launch the McCollum Scholars Program back in January. This initiative gives out $100,000 to 11 students from New Orleans to follow a four-year degree.

The Ohio native had a campaign to remember this year, as his contributions on court were also impactful. The athlete competed in 66 games this regular season, and averaged 20 points with 45.9% shots from the field and 42.9% from beyond the arc, plus 4.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists per match.

McCollum participated in numerous programs which involved financing the youth’s dreams through educative initiatives in Louisiana

Other than his $1.1 million commitment with College Beyond and his McCollum Scholars Program, the player also opened the CJ McCollum Dream Center at the Westbank Boys & Girls Club of Metro Louisiana.

This is the third Dream Center that he opens in the United States, but the first in New Orleans since he was traded by Portland in 2022.

The veteran star “described the centers as a beacon of hope and a safe haven where youth can explore, learn and grow.” The latest center in Louisiana includes new tablets, virtual reality headsets, laptops and a library.

“There’s a lot of awards you can win in this league, and a lot of them are centered around your individual talents and kind of what you’ve achieved on the court. And this award is so much more,” CJ told the press this week. “It’s a combination of so many different things in terms of impact, selflessness, serving people.”