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Friday, September 22, 2023


Harden’s recognition revives post-Harvey relief memories

James Harden has been named a finalist for the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for his actions in helping people post-Hurricane Harvey. | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts brought out the best in Houstonians, ranging from first responders to public officials and even our very own Houston athletes.

Houston Rockets guard and MVP frontrunner James Harden is currently one of five finalists for the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, which is presented annually to a player, coach or athletic trainer who demonstrates outstanding service and dedication to their community. Harden is being recognized for assisting the Houston community through charitable donations and community service in the wake of Harvey’s destruction.

Members of the Professional Basketball Writers Association vote on the award’s winner. The PBWA is a nonprofit comprised of people who regularly cover the NBA for newspapers, magazines and websites.

PBWA President Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel was asked for a statement regarding the voting process and his fondest memory concerning the citizenship award.

“The voting process often is excruciating for PBWA members because the community work done by the nominees and the finalists is so outstanding,” Robbins said. “This is why we publicize all five finalists instead of just publicizing the winner. All of the finalists’ work deserves to be recognized. PBWA members consider it a privilege to recognize the outstanding work nominees do throughout the United States and the world.”

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James won the citizenship award last year for “improving the educational opportunities of disadvantaged youth in his hometown of Akron, Ohio and creating long-term change in his community,” according to the NBA website.

James Harden is a finalist this year because following Hurricane Harvey’s destruction to Houston, Harden personally donated $1 million to the city’s relief efforts.

Harden was also active within the community by working with Mayor Sylvester Turner to meet with flood evacuees and visiting several schools impacted by the storm.

Transplants helping their new homes

In addition to Harden’s efforts, many other Houston athletes and sports organizations pitched in by using their social media influence and offering community service.

During Harvey, Rockets guard and Houston native Gerald Green was active on Instagram attempting to secure a boat so he could assist those who needed immediate evacuation. Green, 32, was born and raised in Houston and played basketball at Gulf Shores Academy before going directly to the NBA in 2005.

While Green was on Instagram, Rockets center Clint Capela took to Twitter.

Capela spent multiple days retweeting messages about families and loved ones who were in danger and needed emergency services sent to their location.

J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans created the J.J. Watt Relief Fund with an initial goal of only $200,000 to aid Houstonians, but the relief fund took off and raised over $37 million from more than 200,000 donors.

Watt received the prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award for his aid for Harvey victims.

Except for Green, none of these athletes are from Houston, but even though they are transplants, they have made Houston their home.

Harden’s heart

As well as his initial $1 million donation, Harden has also partnered with Adidas to create his “Harden Assists Houston” campaign in which Adidas donates $100 for every assist Harden records this NBA season. Harden currently has 620 assists on the season, which translates to another $62,000 in hurricane relief.

“It’s what I’ve been building on,” Harden told the Houston Chronicle in late March. “Obviously, being established now, making an impact on the community, and try to make an impact on the world, it’s great. It’s getting noticed. The world is noticing a little bit. I have to keep going. While I’m here and I have this platform, try to make the best of it in terms of impact.”

The official date the PBWA will announce the winner of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award remains unknown, but James Harden has a strong case to not just win the MVP award this season, but the citizenship award, too.

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