WNBA's Tamika Catchings Honored at Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards

Tamika Catchings - H - 2015
Associated Press

Hosted by boxing star Laila Ali, daughter of the legendary boxing champion Muhammad Ali, the awards event honors athletes for giving back to the community.

What defines a sports hero?

Is it the ability to sprint a 100-meter dash in less than 10 seconds or winning three NBA Championship rings? In the age of increasingly greater interaction between star athletes and their fans, the idea of a sports hero has evolved to include their humanitarian contributions to society. This expanded concept was recognized at the Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards, sponsored by ESPN and PlayStation, at L.A. Live on Tuesday night.

Hosted by boxing star Laila Ali, daughter of the legendary boxing champion Muhammad Ali, the awards event honors athletes, teams and members of the sports industry for using sport to give back to the community. This is especially true as children around the world are asking professional players to do more than excel in the field.

First lady Michelle Obama kicked off the event with her video that children want their role models to reach out to them, to inspire them about maintaining a mentally healthy and physically fit lifestyle.

“It’s nice to be able to highlight some of the positive, good things that sports and leagues are doing,” Laila Ali told The Hollywood Reporter. “There’s lots of need around the world. So when you have the means to do it, when you have the platform to do it, then I think you should definitely take advantage of that and give back.”

The night honored Tamika Catchings of the WNBA Indiana Fever with the Humanitarian of the Year award for her efforts in mentoring and promoting fitness and literacy to youth in Indianapolis as well her dedication in teaching young girls to build confidence and embrace their differences. Other nominees for the award included Anquan Boldin of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, Henrik Lundqvist of the NHL’s New York Rangers and WWE champion John Cena.

The Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year went to the NBA’s Chicago Bulls to recognize their work in their Season of Giving and involvement in organizing more than 100 community events to tackle issues related to youth education, violence prevention, health and wellness and the military. Contenders for the team category included MLS’ Portland Timbers, the 49ers and WWE community relations.

All the finalists will receive a $25,000 grant, with the winner awarded $75,000 to be given to their respective charities. The event also paid tribute to the late ESPN commentator Stuart Scott and his ability to inspire and empower, honoring four sports leaders in his name with the Scott ENSPIRE Award (ESPN + inspire). The honorees included MLB commissioner emeritus Bud Selig and wife Suzanne, the You Can Play Project, the “Like a Girl” Campaign and Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.