Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard has won the 2018-19 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, as administered and selected by the Professional Basketball Writers Association (PBWA). Named after the NBA’s second commissioner, the honor is presented annually by the PBWA to a player, coach or athletic trainer who shows outstanding service and dedication to the community.
Lillard was one of five finalists for the 2018-19 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, along with Charlotte Hornets center Bismack Biyombo, Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley and Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr.
The finalists were chosen by a committee of 25 PBWA members from a list of 27 nominees submitted by NBA teams. The winner was determined by a vote of the entire PBWA, which is composed of more than 200 writers and editors who cover the NBA regularly for newspapers, magazines and online news outlets.
A seven-year NBA veteran, Lillard is being honored for supporting and inspiring high school students in Portland through his RESPECT program, which encourages youth to Show Up, Work Hard and Be Kind. Lillard, who has spent his entire career with the Trail Blazers since being selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, started the anti-bullying platform in 2013 after meeting with Portland school administrators to identify schools that most needed a more positive culture among students.
Lillard has partnered with three Portland high schools – Madison, Parkrose and Roosevelt – to reinforce the value of education and celebrate student achievement. He has participated in school assemblies and class discussions and has empowered teachers and counselors to reward respectful, diligent students with tickets to Trail Blazers games, RESPECT merchandise and special events with Lillard such as a private tour of the team’s practice facility. The schools have reported significant progress resulting from Lillard’s commitment, including improvements in student behavior, engagement, attendance and tardiness.
“Damian Lillard’s sustained commitment to inspire young people in Portland is inspiring,” said PBWA President Josh Robbins of The Athletic. “PBWA members honor him and commend his fellow finalists and nominees for their laudatory work.”
In addition to his efforts to drive generational change with Portland students, Lillard has served as a Global Ambassador for the Special Olympics since 2013. In February, he was an honorary coach at the eighth annual NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Game at NBA All-Star 2019 in Charlotte.
Lillard, who turns 29 in July, averaged 25.8 points, a career-high 6.9 assists and 4.6 rebounds in 80 games this season. He earned his fourth NBA All-Star selection and was named to the 2018-19 All-NBA Second Team. The 6-3 guard helped Portland reach the Western Conference Finals for the first time since the 1999-00 season.
Lillard will receive his J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award trophy during a ceremony prior to a 2019-20 regular-season game in Portland.