Powell decided that should he make it to the NBA, he would dedicate his career to a calling much greater than himself and use the tools his mom taught him to help other people.
Jacqueline Weir passed away from breast cancer on Sept. 13, 2012, and never saw her son make it to the NBA. But her memory and lessons have guided Powell every step of the way the last eight years.
She pushed for her son to be not only a champion on the court, but a champion with people.
“She said if you want something there’s nothing that can stop you from getting it other than your own decisions,” Powell said. “A few of the things that we talked about are kind of in the works now, so hopefully she’s looking down and smiling.”
For the second year in a row, Powell has been nominated by the Mavs for the NBA Cares Community Assist Award and could be a frontrunner to take home the NBA’s top honor this season.
Fittingly, the NBA will announce its winner in October, a month when the nation honors and remembers those who battled breast cancer.
It’s an especially meaningful time for Powell because two years ago at this time, he established the Dwight Powell Children and Family Support Fund at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas to provide guidance, education, and resources to help patients and their children cope with cancer.
The program is the first-of-its-kind in the state of Texas because the fund is run by the social workers at the hospital and a need-based form would be given to the patients to determine who qualifies for aid.
During Powell’s second annual “A Night of Hope” gala last October, the event raised an astounding $750,000 for patients.
“The game of basketball has provided me a great deal and playing in this league has always been my dream,” Powell said, “but to be able to support families in their time of need and hopefully allow kids a chance to live their dreams themselves means so much more to me.”
Little did anyone know at the time, but that would be just the start of Powell’s remarkable journey and impact in the community this season.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is not the least bit surprised to see everything Powell accomplished this season.
“Dwight is super-smart,” Cuban said. “He has a great heart, is authentic. Dwight should be a candidate for the NBA Cares Award every year.
“DP is always looking to what he can do for others. He is the definition of selfless. He is just a great guy by every measure.”
The Mavericks selected veterans Kristaps Porzingis and Powell as the team’s nominees for the NBA Cares 2019-20 End of Season Community Assist Award for their monumental community impact and exemplary leadership displayed this season.
The pair used their platforms and resources to bring attention to childhood hunger, social injustice and systemic racism across the country.
The NBA Cares Award is regarded as one of the most coveted honors that an NBA player can receive because finalists have chosen to dedicate their basketball career to a calling much greater than themselves.
For both the Mavericks and the NBA, the competition is always stiff because the league is woven with players dedicated to various organizations and causes around the world. The novel coronavirus and call for racial reform have created an atmosphere that makes this year’s award especially meaningful for players nominated by their organizations across the league.
The Dallas Mavericks community relations team said Powell made an astronomical impact for the Mavs and entire NBA this season.
“Dwight Powell stepped up when the community needed him the most in the wake of the global pandemic and the recent acts of systemic racism and social injustice,” said Emily Luth, Mavs community relations manager.
Luth said the Stanford grad teamed up with Cuban, guard Luka Dončić and the Dallas Mavericks Foundation to donate $500,000 to two area hospitals in order to support childcare for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response effort at two area hospitals.
Furthermore, Powell has become a key figure for leadership across the NBA as a representative with the National Basketball Players Association. He also sat on NBPA five-player committee that helped launch the NBA restart.
Inside the NBA bubble, Powell was heavily involved in meetings during the players’ three-day strike to help formulate a plan to put social justice reform at the forefront of the league.
“The meetings that we’ve had were very productive,” Powell said. “All the players were very motivated. The conversations with the league and the ownership group were very motivated to find ways to actively bring change right now and for the future, going forward.”
A finalist for last season’s NBA Cares Community Season Award, Powell likely has a true shot to win this year’s honor because he’s emerged as a top voice and leader for players around the league.
“Everyone has things they feel strongly about, and I think as a league we’ve done a good job of supporting those voices,” Powell said. “And even if they may seem like outliers, it’s important for them to be able to speak their minds.
“That’s important for us as a league and a country as well to have that freedom to speak your mind.”
When the NBA season halted on March 11, Powell first served as a spokesman with the Mavericks to teach fans how to protect themselves from the coronavirus through various programs. Then he joined NBPA president Chris Paul and three other players to work on the league’s return to play.
From there, Powell became a key voice to amplify the message of players around the league once they entered the NBA bubble.
Powell once again served as the Mavs spokesperson with the the Dallas Mavericks Science of Basketball campaign and each year he goes one-on-one with Dallas ISD math and science teachers to promote curriculums aimed at empowering students who might be underperforming academically.
“It’s important to engage (students) with exciting new strategies to help them learn,” said Powell, who has participated in Science of Basketball for three years.
The program targets fifth- and sixth-grade teachers and educators say the students connect with the program because it involves hands-on learning experiences like interactive student camps that are tied to basketball.
“The kids are our future. The better we can educate them, the better they’ll be prepared to carry on all of our legacies,” Powell said.
“I think one of the important things we can never forget as NBA players and guys in our position is that because of the communities around us is why we’re able to do the things that we do,” Powell said. “So in any situation in any time if you can find ways to give back, it’s the most important part of our job, especially around the holiday season.”
In January, Powell tore his Achilles and could have remained home during the NBA restart to finish his rehab. However, Powell never even considered that option and joined his team in Orlando, providing valuable leadership for his teammates and other players in the bubble.
Powell said: “I’m still part of this team, whether I can contribute on offense or defense. I’m still proud to be a Dallas Maverick.”
At the beginning of the social justice efforts that began during COVID-19, Powell immediately showed his support by attending a vigil for George Floyd in Dallas. He also was on hand for the team’s “Courageous Conversations” event, a rally put together to honor Floyd’s memory and discuss systemic racism.
Powell orchestrated the Mavericks’ plan to wear the word “Equality” on the back of their jerseys during NBA Comeback 2020. He also was involved with coach Rick Carlisle as he joined forces with Mothers Against Police Brutality.
“There are issues of racial injustice and systemic racism in this country,” Powell told Mavs.com. “We have to be part of the conversation and the fight for equality.”
Powell also advocated that mental health initiatives be at the forefront of the NBA restart.
“We wanted to make sure it’s as fair and as similar to normal circumstances as possible to ensure that whoever was crowned champion at the end of this, it was justified and valid and we would all agree that it was rightfully earned,” he said. “So that was important.
“Also, player mental health (is important). There’s a lot of social aspects and non-basketball components that go into supporting the mental health of players and the staff and coaches that are in the bubble.”
In North Texas, Powell was adamant about giving back and brightening days of our youth during this pandemic. He participated in Children’s Hospital virtual room visits and played bingo with kids, delivered a congratulatory message for seniors graduating in 2020, made a personal video call to one of his biggest young fans and recorded a Motivational Monday video encouraging people to stay positive during this time.
In addition, Powell worked with his fellow NBA brethren to establish a social justice coalition made up of players, coaches and governors that help facilitate the creation of voting locations at NBA arenas across the country.
The American Airlines Center in Dallas will become the largest polling location in Dallas County for the November elections. Powell also helped guide meetings with NBA players when the players decided to strike for three days inside the NBA bubble and join other sports leagues that held similar protests.
“Anytime you have some kind of systemic problem, it’s going to take a widespread response from multiple leagues, small businesses and people around the country—from athletes to telecasters—taking a moment to really think about what’s important and how they can help and how we can draw attention to this issue,” Powell said. “We see over and over again black and brown people losing their lives to police brutality and falling victim to this system that’s been in place for quite some time.”
Powell said even though the season is over for the Mavericks, his desire to help others never stops. His mother always stressed education, and it’s the same message he now expresses to others.
“I think that’s a great place to start – educating ourselves, educating the next generation on what’s happening, what’s going on now, and what the future should hopefully look like. So I think right now just using our voice and really having those tough conversations with the people around you and letting those conversations grow and spread, and letting the awareness and the education reach as far as possible, is great.”
The NBA Cares Community Assist Award honors NBA players each season who best reflect the passion that the league and its players have for giving back to their communities.
The Dallas Mavericks have won multiple monthly honors, but have not won the overall season award.
The winner of the award is presented a plaque dedicated to David Robinson with the words inscribed on the hardware that says: “Following the standard set by NBA Legend David Robinson, who improved the community piece by piece.”
It’s an award that could soon—and deservedly – arrive in Powell’s hands.
At 29, Powell has already had a tremendous impact on the NBA both on and off the court. His story is one of pain that evolved into purpose, a mission to honor his mother by bringing hope and joy into the lives of so many.
“He’s a constant,” Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s a constant team-first guy; he’s a constant worker; he’s a constant everything. Guys like him define the culture we want here.”
Powell said his mother would expect nothing less.
“Everything I do — even before, when she was alive — was to make her proud,” Powell shared. “Especially now I understand, I’m carrying a legacy for both of us, trying to make sure all the lessons she taught me I’m continuing with her in mind.”
Story: Tamara Jolee, Dallas Mavericks Reporter
Photos: Dwight Powell, Mavs Digital, NBA Entertainment