Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young has already built a legacy. No, not for destroying the Knicks' dreams or dismantling the 76ers 'Process'. Not for nutmegging defenders or pulling up from the logo.
Rather, the soft-spoken 23-year-old has quietly become one of the most important voices in the NBA. Instead of using his celebrity status to flex on fans, he has made moves to help those who need it most.
Through generous acts of kindness and bold candor, Young is inspiring a new generation to take part in community activism. In the city represented by the legendary John Lewis for decades, and in the state where voting rights are under attack, Young has found his voice.
Long before he signed his max contract extension, Young began writing checks to worthy causes. His large donations went directly to underserved communities.
In January of 2020, the second-year player helped eliminate $1 million in medical debt for struggling families in Atlanta. Young donated $10,000 through his foundation, which erased $1,059,186.39 of medical debt. The average amount abolished was $1,858 for 570 people.
In the summer of 2020, Young and his family donated $4 million for a multi-sport facility in Norman, which became known as 'The Young Family Center.' The gift was the largest donation in city history.
“For him to be a top-5 draft pick, for him to have his own shoe with his name on it and be sponsored by Adidas, and have all the endorsements he has, that was the least he can do. Use some of that success and the money that he gets from that to give back to his community." - Father Rayford Young speaking to OUDaily.com in February 2021
It's one thing to donate to a non-partisan cause. It's another to risk your popularity to support a protest movement during America's most divided time since the 1960s.
Throughout the summer of 2020, the country erupted in largely peaceful protests. Following the murder of George Floyd, some cities - including Atlanta - went up in flames. People were sick, unemployed, and angry about the continuing racial injustices and acts of police brutality.
That's when Young took to the microphone at a peaceful protest in Oklahoma and encouraged his millions of fans and social media followers to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I definitely lost a couple of followers for speaking my voice and speaking my opinion. That’s OK. That’s necessary.” - Trae Young quote from The Oklahoman in June 2020
Since that time, Young has continued to use his platform for social justice. For example, along with other NBA stars, Young has urged Oklahoma state officials to commute the sentence for Julius Jones, a man sentenced to death for a 1999 murder he maintains he did not commit.
In addition to civil rights issues, the floor general has set his eyes on helping people get vaccinated against COVID-19. In July, Young partnered with Kroger Health to drive awareness and access to the COVID-19 vaccine within America’s underserved communities.
When Trae Young's career is over, he will obviously be remembered for revitalizing the Hawks organization and rendering opposing defenses obsolete. But for now, his best playing days are still ahead of him, and so are his most significant contributions to society. Another day, another opportunity.
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