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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown and Bill Russell to Receive The Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award

Transcendent Athletes and Champions of Social Justice to Be Honored During Sportsperson of the Year Ceremony, December 12 at Barclays Center

Nov 30, 2016

(NEW YORK, NY, November 30, 2016)— Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown and Bill Russell will receive the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, it was announced today by Time Inc.’s (NYSE: Time) SI. The three icons have been chosen by the SI editors to receive the honor for their incomparable athletic careers and decades of leadership as social activists. They will be honored during SI’s Sportsperson of the Year event on December 12, 2016, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Chris Stone, Sports Illustrated Group editor in chief said of the honorees: “In 2016 we learned that the consequences of speaking out on hard issues were often painful ones, but also how deeply athletes can impact and advance the conversation on those same, hard issues. Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar all recognized, and acted on this in a far harder time in America. That was the example of their friend, Muhammad Ali, and the torch they’ve carried for the more than a half-century."

Abdul-Jabbar, Brown and Russell are beacons of thoughtful discourse on racial and social inequality and their impact has been felt worldwide. In one profound example, the three came together nearly five decades ago in what became known as the “Ali Summit.” The 1967 meeting, organized by Brown, was attended by many top athletes of that era to support Muhammad Ali’s fight against induction into the U.S. Army as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War. It was a time of civil and social unrest in the U.S., and the public display of unity was a transformational moment in the fight for civil rights and for the notion that athletes’ voices should be heard beyond the field of play.

On this year’s award winners Lonnie Ali said: “Congratulations to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown and Bill Russell for their numerous athletic successes and more importantly, the leadership they all have displayed to make this world a much better place. Particular recognition this year goes to Kareem for being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama and Jim for the new statue that sits outside of Cleveland Browns stadium in recognition of his achievements with the organization. In times of hardship and adversity, these three remarkable individuals continued to stand up as activists to pave the way for those that followed. I honor you for that and I know Muhammad certainly would be proud that you are receiving the award that bares his name.”

On receiving this award Abdul-Jabbar said, "Muhammad Ali was both a friend and a personal inspiration to me as an athlete and as an activist. To receive an award in his name is especially moving because it means I am honoring his legacy as a man who defied conventions and courageously risked life and career to making America a land of freedom, equal opportunity and social justice."

Said Brown, “I am deeply touched to be honored for a lifetime spent working to establish common ground and mutual respect for all perspectives and backgrounds. I hope that this tribute serves as a symbol of inspiration for all Americans to be champions of social justice. This is a proud moment for me, and I am thrilled to be recognized alongside two other transformative athletes with whom I share a long history of activism and friendship, and for whom I have great respect."

Added Russell, “To be a true influence of positive change in the world often means that you have to stand up against injustice and fight through adversity. I am honored to be recognized alongside some of the great cultural icons of our time who have used their platforms to fight for civil rights and social justice, regardless of the risk, including my good friend Muhammad Ali to whom the award is dedicated. Our work has just begun.”

The Sports Illustrated Legacy Award was born in 2008, when Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder and driving force behind the Special Olympics, was the inaugural honoree. In 2014, Earvin (Magic) Johnson was honored for his two decades as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, social and political activist. Last year SI renamed the award in honor of Ali in recognition of his decades as a boxing legend, humanitarian, civil rights activist and icon. Jack Nicklaus was the first to receive the rededicated award, during the 2015 Sportsperson of the Year ceremony.

The three Legacy Award recipients will be honored alongside the 2016 SI Sportsperson of the Year winner, the SI Kids SportsKids of the Year and other top names and moments from the year in sports at SI’s special Sportsperson of the Year celebration taking place at Barclays Center on December 12. The star-studded affair, which will also be attended by Lonnie Ali, will include a special awards dinner and ceremony with tributes to some of the world’s most legendary athletes, live musical performances and a VIP red carpet entrance featuring celebrities of sports and entertainment. More information about how to attend the event at Barclays Center can be found here.

More about Abdul-Jabbar, Brown and Russell:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s basketball dominance is unmatched; over 20 seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers he built one of the most distinguished careers in NBA history. He was a six-time NBA champion, a six-time league MVP and a 19-time NBA All-Star, and 27 years after his retirement he is still the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. He was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year in 1985, only the second NBA player at the time to win the award. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995. After dominating high school at the now defunct Power Memorial High School, Alcindor ruled the college ranks leading UCLA to three National Championships. He was selected as Player of the Year in 1967 and 1969 by the Sporting News, UPI, AP and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. He was also named All-American and the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament in ’67, ’68 and ’69. All after sitting out his freshman year as NCAA rules prohibited freshmen from playing varsity.

Abdul-Jabbar’s on-court accomplishments are mirrored by his efforts toward social change, particularly his focus on engaging young people around the world. Earlier this month, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. When bestowing the award, President Obama described Abdul-Jabbar as, "an American who illuminates both our most basic freedoms and our highest aspirations." Abdul-Jabbar is a New York Times best-selling author who has won the NAACP Image Award twice, for his work on the children’s book "What Color Is My World" and the 2011 documentary film, "On the Shoulders of Giants." In 2012 he was named global Cultural Ambassador by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; in that role he has traveled internationally to promote the importance of education, tolerance and cultural understanding. As an author covering many of the challenging and controversial issues facing the United States today, he has contributed to—among others— the Washington Post, the Huffington Post and TIME, and he is the subject of "Kareem: Minority of One," an HBO documentary about his life.

Jim Brown is one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century and still the standard by which NFL running backs are judged. A multisport star Brown has been inducted into five Halls of Fame: the Pro Football Hall of Fame ('71), the Lacrosse Hall of Fame (’83), the College Football Hall of Fame (’95), the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame (’16) and the ROTC National Hall of Fame.

He played nine seasons with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns (1957 - ’65), and led the NFL in rushing an astonishing eight times. He is the only player to average over 100 yards rushing per game. A unanimous Rookie of the Year in 1957 and league MVP in ’57, ’58 and ’65, he drove the Browns to an NFL championship in 1964, the last time Cleveland won an NFL title. In 1965, he retired at the peak of his career and while never missing a game, At the time he was first in the NFL in multiple rushing records, including most yards rushing in a season, highest career average rushing gain, most career rushing touchdowns and more. The Browns have retired #32 in his honor, and Syracuse has retired #44 in honor of Brown and other SU legends who shared the number with him. As a senior at Syracuse he was a unanimous first-team All-American and set school records for highest season rush average (6.2) and most rushing touchdowns in a single game (6). He ran for 986 yards—third most in the country despite Syracuse playing only eight games—and scored 14 touchdowns. In the regular-season finale, a 61–7 rout of Colgate, he rushed for 197 yards, scored six touchdowns and kicked seven extra points for 43 points (another school record). Then in the Cotton Bowl, he rushed for 132 yards, scored three touchdowns and kicked three extra points. But a blocked extra point after Syracuse’s third touchdown was the difference as TCU won 28–27. In addition to his football accomplishments, he excelled in basketball, track, and especially lacrosse. As a sophomore, he was the second leading scorer for the basketball team (15 ppg), and earned a letter on the track team. His junior year, he averaged 11.3 points in basketball, and was named a second-team All-American in lacrosse. His senior year, he was named a first-team All-American in lacrosse (43 goals in 10 games to rank second in scoring nationally).

Off the field Brown has been hugely influential in shaping the lives of young adults in underserved communities. He founded the Black Economic Union in 1966 to help establish businesses, create motivational programs for young adults and to promote economic development in African-American communities. He is chairman of the Amer-I-Can Program, a foundation for social change he founded in 1988, which helps young adults reach their full potential in their academics and their communities. The program, which operates in eight states, teaches life-management skills to the underprivileged in order to spark self-determination and shape the behaviors necessary for success. Brown has profoundly impacted the lives of inner-city young adults and prison inmates through his life’s work interceding on violence and gang culture. He also helped break down barriers in the pop culture world when he appeared in the movie "100 Rifles” as one of the first mainstream portrayals of an interracial couple, along with actress Raquel Welch.

Even before he arrived in the NBA, Bill Russell, one of the most decorated athletes in U.S. history, was a basketball force. He was a two-time NCAA champion at the University of San Francisco and in 1956 led the U.S. to a gold medal at the Melbourne Olympics. He was drafted by the Boston Celtics that year and led the franchise to its first NBA championship as a rookie. That title launched an era of dominance unrivaled in any sport: Russell drove the Celtics to 11 championships over his 13-year career while revolutionizing the center position with his skills as a rebounder and defender. He was named NBA MVP five times, and in 1966 (while still playing) he became the first African-American coach in the league’s history; he won two NBA titles as Boston’s player-coach. He still ranks second on the NBA’s all-time rebounding list. Russell was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the year in 1968 for his consistent brilliance and leadership. In 1975 he became the first African-American player inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. On the hardwood, his experiences were far more pleasant. Russell led USF to NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956, including a string of 55 consecutive victories. He became known for his strong defense and shot-blocking skills, once denying 13 shots in a game. UCLA coach John Wooden called Russell "the greatest defensive man I've ever seen”. During his college career, Russell averaged 20.7 points per game and 20.3 rebounds per game. Besides basketball, Russell represented USF in track and field events. He competed in the 440 yards (400 m) race, which he could complete in 49.6 seconds. He also participated in the high jump; Track & Field News ranked him as the seventh-best high jumper in the world in 1956. That year, Russell won high jump titles at the Central California AAU meet, the Pacific AAU meet, and the West Coast Relays. One of his highest jumps occurred at the West Coast Relays, where he achieved a mark of 6 feet 9 1⁄4 inches (2.064 m).

Russell’s fight for civil rights is as storied as his basketball career. He spoke out often against social and racial injustice throughout his playing career, even as he became a target of public criticism and racial hatred. He participated in the 1963 March on Washington and was a staunch supporter of Muhammad Ali’s anti-Vietnam War stance. Russell has received the NBA’s National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award, and in 2011 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.

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Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated is the preeminent journalistic enterprise covering the world of sports both on and off the field. Debuting in 1954, SI has garnered worldwide acclaim for its award-winning storytelling born from an independent voice and for its unparalleled access to the most popular athletes and newsmakers from the sports world. This is the underpinning of the franchise, which now boasts a group of best-in-class consumer products and platforms reaching more than 73 million. The Sports Illustrated Group features the most-read sports magazine, a top 10 sports digital network and marquee franchises—Sports Illustrated Films, ‪TheMMQB.com, the FanSided Network of sites and apps, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, Sportsperson of the Year, the SI Golf Group (Golf magazine, ‪Golf.com, SI Golf +), Extra Mustard and Sports Illustrated Kids. For more information, visit ‪SI.com‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ and follow @SINow on Twitter, @SportsIllustrated on Instagram and Facebook and SI_mag on Snapchat. 


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Time Inc. (NYSE:TIME) is a leading content company that engages over 150 million consumers every month through our portfolio of premium brands across platforms. By combining our distinctive content with our proprietary data and people-based targeting, we offer highly differentiated end-to-end solutions to marketers across the multi-media landscape. Our influential brands include People, Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, InStyle, Real Simple and Southern Living, as well as more than 50 diverse titles in the United Kingdom. Time Inc. has been extending the power of our brands through various acquisitions and investments, including Viant, an advertising technology firm with a specialized people-based marketing platform, The Foundry, Time Inc.’s creative lab and content studio, and the People Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). The company is also home to celebrated franchises and events, such as the Time 100, Fortune Most Powerful Women, People’s Sexiest Man Alive, Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year, the Essence Festival and the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. 



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