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National Civil Rights Sports Legacy Award — 2011 honorees

This year Willie Mays, Willis Reed and Lenny Wilkens will be honored with a Sports Legacy Award. Willie Mays:
‘Giving every child a chance’

One of the greatest baseball players of all-time, Willie Mays – the greatest according to some – has secured a place among the paramount sports icons in American history. Twenty-two years of illustrious play in the major leagues meshed with an exuberant and joyous demeanor has helped “The Say Hey Kid” inspire immeasurable numbers of people to fulfill Mays’ dream of giving every child a chance.

During his stellar career, Mays twice was named MVP. He set the record for putouts by an outfielder, recorded 3,283 hits, appeared in 24 All-Star games, collected 12 Gold Gloves and hit 660 home runs (currently No. 4 all-time).

Near the end of his playing time, Mays created the Say Hey Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting education and the enrichment of underprivileged youth through education, scholarships, training and community support.

Mays, who was born in Westfield, Ala., was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979 in his first year of eligibility. He has since received numerous honors, including being ranked by The Sporting News as the second greatest baseball player of all-time and eighth by ESPN in their ranking of the top athletes of the 20th century. He has also received honorary degrees from Ohio State University, Yale University, Miles College, Dartmouth College and San Francisco State University.

Willis Reed:
‘With heart and soul’

All championship teams have heart and soul. And on the New York Knicks’ 1970 and 1973 championship teams, Willis Reed was the embodiment of those essential traits.

 Reed led the Knicks to their first NBA title in 1970. During the NBA Finals, Reed provided one of the most courageous and memorable moments in NBA history when he overcame a severe leg injury to start Game 7 against the Los Angeles Lakers and inspire his teammates to the win.

Reed was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982 after spending 10 season with the Knicks, where he was named regular season MVP (1970), Finals MVP (1970, 73), All-NBA First Team (1970), All-NBA Second Team (1967, ’68, ‘69, ‘71) and NBA All-Defensive Team (1970). In 1996, Reed was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history.

Born in Hico, La., in the 1940’s, Reed attended Grambling State University in Louisiana. Following his playing career, Reed held numerous coaching and front office positions with several teams, including the Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks and New Jersey Nets. He last served as the Vice President of Basketball Operations for the New Orleans Hornets.

Lenny Wilkens:
‘Serving the underprivileged’

A three-time member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, Lenny Wilkens is one of the most decorated individuals to ever be associated with the game of basketball.

A record-setter as a player and as a coach, some of Wilkens’ greatest accomplishments have come away from the court. Committed to serving the underprivileged, Wilkens created the Lenny Wilkens Foundation, which funds organizations that deliver healthcare and educational services to young people.  The primary recipient of funds from the Lenny Wilkens Foundation is the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, a community clinic of Children’s Hospital of Seattle.

Among point guards, Wilkens ranks as one of the elite in NBA history. And among coaches he ranks second for all-time coaching victories.
After a 15-year playing career that included nine-NBA All-Star appearances, Wilkens went on to coach the Seattle Super Sonics to their only NBA championship in 1979.  He was also named the NBA’s Coach of the Year in 1994, and is only person included on the NBA’s all-time top 50 list of players and top 10 list of coaches.

Wilkens is also a two-time Olympic gold medalist after serving as an assistant on the 1992 Dream Team (which also earned him his third induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame after previous inductions as a player and coach) and the head coach of the 1996 USA team.

Legacy Award – Previous Honorees

2006 – Mannie Jackson and Bill Russell
2007 – Dikembe Mutombo and David Robinson
2008 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bob Lanier
2009 – David Bing and Julius Erving
2010 – Alonzo Mourning and Oscar Robertson

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