NEW YORK, United States, May 21 – Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, snubbed in voting for this season’s NBA Most Valuable Player award, was named Sunday as winner of the NBA Citizenship Award for community service.
The prize, voted upon by a media panel, is open to NBA players, coaches or trainers for their off-court work.
James, a four-time NBA MVP, has improved educational opportunities for more than 1,100 at-risk and disadvantaged youth in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, through his charity foundation.
The honor came two days after finalists for the NBA’s top individual awards were announced and James was not among the MVP candidates despite leading the league in minutes played and sparking the defending NBA champions to another strong season.
But Houston Rockets guard James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook and San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard were named as MVP finalists.
James mentors students, writing letters and calling them and rewards achievement with game tickets. He buys groceries for students and their families, supplies school uniforms and arranges outings to expose children to new experiences.
The three-time NBA champion, who is trying to reach his seventh consecutive NBA Finals, also established a program with Akron public schools and the University of Akron for around-the-clock support to foundation students when they enter college.
In 2015, James pledged full college scholarships for qualifying students in his mentorship program.
James brought 23 high school students from Akron to New Orleans for the NBA All-Star Game last February and they rebuilt a home damaged by Hurricane Katrina as well as helped in tornado relief efforts.
Other award finalists included New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler, Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum and Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph.