The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced today Toronto Raptors Senior Basketball Advisor Wayne Embry, along with George Raveling and Bill Russell, are the winners of the 2020 Mannie Jackson – Basketball’s Human Spirit Award. Honoured for their decades-long commitment to social justice, the 2020 award recipients will be formally recognized in May 2021 during Hall of Fame Enshrinement Weekend. 

            “Mr. Embry sets the example by which we measure ourselves, every day,” said Raptors President Masai Ujiri. “Having him as a member of our team is an unbelievable gift. He reminds us of the privileges we have, because we are all benefiting from the work he and his colleagues did for us. And he provides us with inspiration – can we live up to his example? That is what we strive to do. Because of you, Mr. Embry.”

            Established in 2007, the Mannie Jackson – Basketball’s Human Spirit Award honours individuals who have found the game of basketball to be a contributing aspect of their personal growth and accomplishment, a place to develop an understanding of others and an avenue that has helped shape his or her growth into a recognized visionary leader. Winners must reflect the values of Mannie Jackson’s life-long mission to overcome obstacles and challenge the status quo, while taking responsibility for his or her actions and seeking the highest standard of excellence.

            Embry, Raveling and Russell were chosen from a large candidate pool that represents every level of basketball and is reviewed annually by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and Mr. Jackson. The winner recognition process was paused in 2020 due to the global pandemic and two sets of winners are expected to be recognized in the 2021 calendar year.

            Embry has been affiliated with the NBA for more than 50 years as a player and front office executive, joining the Raptors organization in 2004. While Embry enjoyed a successful 11-year career as a player, he will be forever remembered in professional sports circles for being the first African American to be general manager when he was named to the post by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1972. From 1985-92, Embry served as vice-president and general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers. He moved to an executive vice-president position with the club from 1992-94, and in 1994 once again made history by becoming the first African American NBA team president and chief operating officer.

            A native of Springfield, Ohio, Embry has been a prominent community activist and mentor in each city where he has lived and worked. Embry was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999. Miami University, his alma mater, recently announced that a statue of Embry would be placed on campus, the first African American alumnus to be so honoured, for his contributions to the university, the state of Ohio and his transformative impact on the sport of basketball.