The NBA announced Friday that Lakers forward Pau Gasol is the 2011-12 recipient of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award. The award is named after the second commissioner of the NBA and presented annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association, and is presented to the player, coach or trainer who shows the most outstanding service and dedication to the community. Gasol becomes the fourth Laker to earn the honor since the award was started in the 1974-75 season, and he joins his teammate Metta World Peace as recipients (World Peace won it in 2010-11). Former Lakers Michael Cooper (1985-86) and Earvin "Magic" Johnson (1991-92) also won the award, and Vlade Divac (1999-00 with Sacramento) and Brian Grant (1998-99 with Portland) are former Lakers who have also been honored with the award while on other teams. Other finalists nominated by the PBWA this year included Josh Smith (Atlanta), Jason Terry (Dallas) and J.J. Redick (Orlando).
Per a press release from the NBA, Gasol was chosen because he has been a tireless worker worldwide on behalf of various UNICEF causes. He has been a UNICEF Ambassador for seven years and traveled the globe working with programs aimed at nutrition and education for children.
A great honor for Gasol, whose Lakers will play host to the Oklahoma City Thunder Friday night, already trailing 2-0 in the seven-game series. Gasol is averaging 12.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in the first two games of the series and will look to help the Lakers bounce back.