Powell is the first player in Mavericks history to take home the yearly honor since the NBA started selecting overall winners after the 2011-12 season. The NBA Cares Community Assist Award is regarded as one of the most coveted honors that an NBA player can receive because winners have chosen to dedicate their basketball careers to a calling much greater than just the game.
“The game of basketball has provided me a great deal and playing in this league has always been my dream,” Powell said. “But more importantly, 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.”
Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes, Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, Milwaukee Bucks guard George Hill, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul are the other four winners. This year’s end-of-season award recognizes five players whose exemplary work advanced social justice and provided COVID-19 relief and support, reflecting the longstanding passion of NBA players to give back to their communities and stand up for the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion.
The five recipients made concerted efforts throughout the 2019-20 season – which extended nearly a full calendar year including the league’s hiatus and restart – to leverage their platforms and voices to engage, empower and support different communities amidst the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic and social justice movement following continued incidents of racialized violence against black men and women.
Each winning player will receive $10,000 to their charity of choice, a donation from the NBA and Kaiser Permanente.
“In my opinion, being a member of a community means lending your neighbor a hand whenever needed and searching for ways to help make your community a better place for all who live there,” Powell stated.
“Furthermore, this year has presented us all with challenges that I feel should have reminded us that we are part of a much larger community than our NBA market. The issues at hand regarding public health and equality are far reaching and demand all of our attention. So it goes without saying we as NBA players have felt the need to step up in whatever way we can to try and find ways to help keep people safe, fight for racial justice and urge everyone to register to vote so they too can use their voices. As members of the greater community I feel that’s all of our duties.”
Kaiser Permanente and the NBA are honoring Powell for providing resources and relief to cancer patients and their families.
After losing his mother to breast cancer in 2012, he created the Dwight Powell Children and Family Support Fund in partnership with UT Southwestern Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center to help patients and their children cope with the hardships of cancer.
The program is the first of its kind in Texas because the fund is run by the social workers who are on the ground and understand the immediate resources, expenses and needs of patients and their families after a diagnosis.
Last October, Powell hosted “A Night of Hope” with help from Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and head coach Rick Carlisle. The sold-out fundraiser raised more than $750,000 for the Dwight Powell Children and Family Support Fund. Additionally, on Oct. 11, Powell addressed the crowd at the Mavericks’ Breast Health Awareness Night game, which included many of the families and children that Powell supports though his fund.
“Much of what I’ve learned from Mark Cuban, Coach Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki throughout the years has been about how important it is to help this community, which has given us such incredible support,” Powell said. “I’m proud to say I’m a Maverick for that reason most of all.”
Cuban said Powell definitely deserves the NBA Cares 2019-20 End of Season Community Assist Award.
“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.”
Mavericks legends J.J. Barea, Greg Buckner, Michael Finley, Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry have all been named NBA Cares monthly community assist award winners, but Powell is the first to take home the yearly honor. Powell was one of ten finalists for last year’s NBA Cares season-long award that went to Bradley Beal.
The award recognizes an NBA player each month who best reflects the passion that the league and its players share for giving back to their communities.
“When Dwight believes in something, he is committed to it wholeheartedly,” said Katie Edwards, Dallas Mavericks senior vice president of external affairs and president of the Mavs Foundation.
“His desire to give back and help others is part of who he is. Dwight leads with his heart and his desire to help and bring people together makes him a true leader for the Mavericks and for our community.”
She noted that Powell’s leadership that emerged after the global pandemic and call for social justice reform made a true, sustainable impact on the North Texas community and around the league.
“Back in March when the season was suspended and our communities were hit hard by COVID, Dwight was one of the first to step in and offer his help,” said Edwards.
“Not only did he join Mark Cuban and Luka (Dončić) to offer a large financial donation to help essential workers, but he was on the phone calling coffee shops to arrange breakfast for first responders, corralling a group text for who might be able to pick up and deliver meals, jumping on Zoom to read a book to one of his favorite little fans – he wanted to do everything he could to help.”
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.
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,” 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 late 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, © 2020 Dallas Mavericks
(Note: Media outlets have permission to use quotes, story and images contained in this story)
Images: Dwight Powell, NBA Entertainment, Mavs Digital