The 36-year-old NBA star was honored with the prestigious accolade during the virtual awards ceremony on Saturday. NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson presented him with the award, saying, "Tonight, the President's Award goes to someone who has earned our greatest respect and highest honor, not for his dominance in the NBA, but for his dedication to social justice."
"LeBron James, 'the chosen one.' A name befitting an individual so keenly aware of the platform he has built with his athletic skills," he continued. "And yet, like all black athletes, he is all too familiar with the risks involved with raising his voice against systemic racism. But just as he has done on the court, he rises to the occasion on behalf of our communities and lends himself to the need for progress and true equality."
James accepted the award virtually, thanking his family, friends and fans for all their support.
"First of all, I wish I could be standing to accept this award, but the doctor told me I need to keep the weight off of my ankle," he said, referencing his recent ankle sprain injury. "I appreciate all the well wishes and to my injury, I'll be back soon."
As many of his fans know, in addition to his legendary status within the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers star has been using his platform off the court to give back and enact change over the past few years. Back in July, for example, James was one of many high profile players to make a statement about the calls for social justice around the world, redirecting questions during their first press conference about their return to the game to shed light on the murder of Breonna Taylor. James also helped organize an NBA strike following the shooting of Jacob Blake last August -- which led to the league establishing a social justice coalition and agreeing to convert several arenas into polling stations.
The NAACP Image Awards honors people of color across television, music, literature and film. This year's event included a week-long celebration, with five nights of virtual awards leading up to Saturday's live broadcast. Hosted by return emcee Anthony Anderson, the ceremony included Andra Day, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Michelle Obama, Regina King and more presenting awards, while Eddie Murphy was inducted into the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame (presented to him by longtime collaborator Arsenio Hall).