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Basketball isn't who he is, it's what he does — Malcolm Brogdon honored for community contributions
Brogdon becomes the second Pacer to receive the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.
Malcolm Brogdon is making a name for himself on the basketball court, but he’ll leave a legacy for what he continues to do off of it.
Brogdon turns 28 this month and launched his own foundation earlier this year. He was voted co-captain of the Pacers last October despite being a newcomer and he quickly became the leader of the locker room. It wasn’t a surprise that he was living up to the nickname “The President.”
He’s a member of the executive committee for the National Basketball Players’ Association, so he’s involved in every key decision — including the restart of the 2019-20 season.
Brogdon’s not only been a leader in the locker room, but also in the community. He regularly speaks with and mentors youth in Indy and brings in community leaders for discussions. You probably don’t know it because, by design, it’s not advertised and he insists that reporters aren’t present.
As a result of his continued efforts, the Atlanta native is the recipient of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for the 2019-20 season. It’s one of four annual awards voted on by more than 200 members of the Professional Basketball Writers Association (PBWA). This award is given to a player, coach or athletic trainer who shows outstanding service and dedication to the community.
“He is a super star. He’s not a star, he is a super star,” Kevin Pritchard, the Pacers president of basketball operations, said back in June before the restart.
“When I first met him, when we signed him, we walked out of the first meeting with him and said ‘That guy is a president. He is truly a president.’ What he is doing in the community — I think this organization is so proud and we’re watching him and his platform is growing, and he wants it. That’s something we can get behind.”
Brogdon was one of five finalists for the award, along with Jrue Holiday (Pelicans), Kevin Love (Cavaliers), Josh Okogie (Timerwolves) and Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce.
Hall of Famer Reggie Miller had been the only Pacer to receive it (2003-04). And it was always a meaningful goal for George Hill, who like Brogdon, cares more about impacting lives than playing basketball.
On July 21, Brogdon announced his new long-term commitment “to a more equitable world” with the launching of the Brogdon Family Foundation — focused on 1) advocacy through social justice, 2) empowered education (via the JHA Education Project) and 3) clean water infrastructure (via Hoops4Humanity).
The foundation’s first well, in Tanzania, has been funded through his Hoops4Humanity initiative — with the goal to push it all over Africa. They also have plans to expand into Kenya in 2021.
His interest and commitment weren’t anything new, but his knowledge and available resources were growing. His mother Jann Adams is the real MVP, the point person behind the scenes serving as the executive director. She’s worked at Morehouse College for 25 years and plans to launch the foundation were expediated during the pandemic.
“My mom has been terrific,” Brogdon said during the launch.
Thanks to his family, Brogdon is well-traveled. Growing up, they often visited Africa and because of these trips, he was exposed to poverty and saw those who were less fortunate. The first trip he remembers was when he was 10 years old. After they spent three weeks in Ghana, he became motivated to learn move and eventually help.
“The trip was full of culture, it was full of learning,” he said. “It was an amazing trip, but it was also a trip that in some ways scared me a little bit. It made me change my perspective and it stuck with me forever.”
Brogdon worked on getting this foundation up and running while trying to get healthy and as the NBA took an extended timeout for four months last spring. Like his teammate Justin Holiday and others, he had initial reservations about restarting the season in July. There was so much going on outside the basketball bubble, but he decided to carry on for several thoughtful reasons.
First, fans will be tuned in and paying attention, which amplifies their platforms. Second, there’s a lot of good he can do with his paycheck earned. And lastly, his mother taught him at a young age that when you make a commitment, you see it through. So he did.
“During the Civil Rights Movement in the ‘60s, Dr. King and all of these people that had different jobs didn’t stop working to march, they did both,” he said. “I don’t think it has to be an either/or, I think it can be an and.”
After the season, he teamed up with the Pacers’ flagship radio partner 107.5 The Fan and organized a radiothon. That raised $20,404.71 for Indianapolis Public Schools on Sept. 17.
He encouraged everyone to vote in November’s election and Bankers Life Fieldhouse served as a polling location for the first time. About 1,600 cast their vote there, a team spokesman said. Brogdon also wants to see criminal justice reform across the country.
This accolade will be appreciated by Brogdon because it’s in recognition of the work being done and will bring attention — and potentially funds — to the cause.
He earned his Master’s Degree, was an NBA Draft pick, voted rookie of the year and is now the leader of an NBA team. But I guarantee you, what he’s doing off the court is far more rewarding and meaningful to him now and forever. And he’s just getting started.
“It’s always been something where I knew I wanted to help people, I knew I’d want that to be my last passion,” he said.
Last five recipients of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award:
2018-19: Damian Lillard, Portland
2017-18: J.J. Barea, Dallas
2016-17: LeBron James, Cleveland
2015-16: Wayne Ellington, Brooklyn
2014-15: Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls