LeBron James received the President’s Award for his public service achievements at the 52nd NAACP Image Awards that highlighted works by entertainers and writers of colour.
After James accepted the award on Saturday night, he thanked the NAACP for recognising his efforts beyond the basketball court.
“This award is so much more than myself,” he said. “I’m here receiving it, but this dives into everything that I’m a part of.”
The Los Angeles Lakers superstar was recognised for his effort through his LeBron James Family Foundation and his I Promise School, a co-curricular educational initiative. Last year, he launched More Than a Vote – a coalition of black athletes and artists – that is dedicated to educating and protecting black voters.
During his speech, James said he wished he could have accepted the award on his feet. But, under doctor’s orders, he was unable to do so after spraining his right ankle in a loss against the Atlanta Hawks last week.
“I wish I could be standing for this award, but the doctors told me I need to keep the weight off my ankle. I appreciate all the well wishes and thoughts to my injury. I’ll be back soon.”
Black-ish star and comedian Anthony Anderson hosted the show, which was held virtually, for the eighth consecutive year.
The late Chadwick Boseman won Best Actor in a Motion Picture for his role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. The actor, who also starred in the blockbuster Marvel film Black Panther, died at 43 last year after privately battling colon cancer.
“As always, he would give all honour and glory to the most high God,” said a teary-eyed Simone Ledward Boseman, the actor’s wife, who accepted the award on his behalf. “He would thank his mom and dad. And he would give honour to his ancestors as we now honour him. Thank you NAACP for giving him his flowers. He was an uncommon artist and an even more uncommon person.”
Boseman also urged black people over the age of 45 to get screened for colon cancer.
“Don’t put it off any longer,” she said. “Please, get screened. This disease is beatable if you catch it in its early stages. So you don’t have any time to waste, even if you don’t have any family history. If you think nothing is wrong, and younger than 45, please be proactive about your health. Know the signs. Know your body. Listen to your body.”
Michelle Obama presented Stacey Abrams with the first Social Justice Impact award. Abrams was honoured for her political efforts and voting rights work that helped turn Georgia into a swing state.
The former first lady said Abrams’s “courage is contagious, her approach is inclusive, and her eyes are fixed on the mountain top that has always brought out the best within us".
After Obama called her “unstoppable”, Abrams accepted the award at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta. She said her upbringing helped steer her in the right direction.
“[My parents] taught me and my five siblings that having nothing was not an excuse for doing nothing,” she said. “Instead, they showed by word and deed. To use our faith as a shield to protect the defenceless. To use our voices to call out injustices. And to use our education and our time to solve the problems that others turn away from.”
Viola Davis took home Best Actress for her film and television roles in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and How to Get Away with Murder.
Bridgerton star Rege-Jean Page let out a scream of surprise after learning he won Best actor in a Drama Series for his role in the Netflix series.