DALLAS – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar opened by asking, “Is Reggie Bullock there?”
The shocked Dallas Mavericks sharpshooter instantly sat up in his seat when he saw the NBA’s all-time leading scorer addressing him via Skype on a television screen in the locker room, smiled and respectfully answered, “Yes, sir.”
Abdul-Jabbar proceeded to tell Bullock on Sunday that he was the recipient of the 2022 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award. After Bullock was handed the trophy, the Basketball Hall of Famer known for his social justice impact told him to “keep up the good work” he has done with the LGBTQ+ community.
“I had no idea that was going to happen,” Bullock told Andscape before the Mavericks’ 109-100 loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals Sunday night. “It’s something I’ve been working on for a lot of years, trying to do what is right in the community. To have my name with such a great [honor] like that is very memorable. It is the most important award that I received in my life with the impact I have for others in the community.
“I’m just trying to do what is right. Me and my family are honored to be associated with such a great like that. We are doing the work in the community to make things better.”
The NBA said Bullock was selected from five finalists for “his dedication to pursuing social justice and advancing Abdul-Jabbar’s life mission to engage, empower and drive equality for individuals and groups who have been historically marginalized or systemically disadvantaged, specifically within the LGBTQ+ community.”
Bullock began making an impact in the LGBTQ+ community after his sister Mia Henderson, a transgender woman, was murdered in 2014. Bullock has since dedicated his life to honoring her and pushing for more acceptance and visibility in the LGBTQ+ community.
Since signing with the Mavs in 2021, Bullock joined forces with such Dallas-area organizations as Abounding Prosperity Inc., Dallas Southern Pride, House of Rebirth, Black Tie Dinner, the Resource Center and the Muhlaysia Booker Foundation. In June 2021, he wrote a Players’ Tribune article, I Just Wanna Say My Sisters’ Names, about the murders of Henderson and his younger sister, Keiosha Moore, while advocating for education on crimes against women and gun violence.
As part of winning the award, Bullock selected Kinston Teens, a youth-led organization focused on community development and youth empowerment in his hometown of Kinston, North Carolina, to receive a $100,000 contribution on his behalf.
When asked what drives him to help the LGBTQ+ community, Bullock said: “Obviously, because of what happened to a family member of mine. I also think that it is important to stand up for inclusion and to do right by people to try to make things better in life.”
Said Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd: “Our players are not just basketball players. They are human and they do have concerns. And I think Reggie is doing an incredible job with what he is doing off the court.”
Sunday started well for Bullock, but the day ended with the Mavericks falling into a 3-0 series hole against the Warriors. Bullock, who missed all 10 of his field goal attempts, also injured his left shoulder during the game at American Airlines Center. X-rays were negative and he is expected to play in Game 4, a team source told Andscape.
History isn’t on the Mavs’ side heading into Tuesday night, as NBA teams are 146-0 in playoff series in which they own a 3-0 series lead.
“Reggie has been incredible for us all season,” Kidd said after the Game 3 loss. “He never complains. He goes to work in a great mood. … But listen, all the great shooters have been there. You make some and you miss some. He’s a pro. He will be ready to go, and he will be ready for Game 4.”
What stands out for Bullock off the court isn’t solely charity work. It is not uncommon for NBA players to spend money on luxury homes, cars and jewelry. But what Bullock spent his money on this year was certainly uncommon, as he bought an island in Belize.
“I’ve been looking for different things to invest my money in,” Bullock told Andscape recently. “I found an opportunity down in Belize where I purchased an island that was about 5 acres that I am going to put resort villas on. It’s a vacation spot for me and my family where other people will be able to attend and enjoy different vacation activities.”
Bullock recalls having a conversation with then-New York Knicks teammate Dennis Smith Jr. during the 2019-20 season about the ability to purchase islands. Bullock learned during internet research, to the surprise of both, that there were islands with white sandy beaches available for purchase in Southern Belize on the Caribbean coast near beach resort island Placencia. Bullock began contemplating purchasing one of the islands more seriously last year.
Bullock initially sent his mother, girlfriend and two siblings to look at one in particular with a $2 million asking price. After getting a strong report from his loved ones, he purchased a small island and named it “Bullock Caye.” A caye is defined as a small, low island composed largely of coral or sand. Bullock visited his island for the first time during the 2022 NBA All-Star break in February.
“The water is beautiful,” Bullock said. “That was one of the first things that I noticed. A lot of people are from Cali [California] and Texas. A lot of doctors and a lot of people going into retirement purchase homes for about $300,000 to $400,000 around the water. The people are dope. The food is dope. If you’re down to fish, they have really good grouper.”
Bullock plans to build a 4,000-square-foot home on the island for himself and his family and eight villas for rent for vacationers. He also plans on building a restaurant/bar, spa, basketball court and infinity pool. The 31-year-old said he is enlisting the advice of the locals, most notably a man who sold him the island who owns Hobbs Brewing Co. in Placencia. The nine-year NBA veteran also has hired a local father-and-son caretaker to help with daily maintenance of the island, including getting rid of all the conch, coral and seashells.
“You got to build a team around, from the construction to a lawyer who is doing everything financially,” Bullock said. “From having people you trust that bring dope ideas to the island, getting cool with the [locals], all the people that run the city down there.”
Bullock said he has talked to his son, Treyson, about the island purchase and his vision of generations of Bullocks enjoying the island forever. Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson was unaware of Bullock’s island purchase when asked about it recently, but believed his teammate had his family in mind.
“That is pretty cool. That is very unique,” Brunson told Andscape. “Reggie is a family [man]. He’s been that way and that is something that I admire about him. Whatever he is doing, he is putting in position for his family to be happy in real life.”
Bullock is hopeful his project on Bullock Caye will be completed in 2023. He said he can host as many as 40 people on the island at a time. To get there, you have to fly to Belize City, take a short flight to Placencia, then take a 10-minute boat ride.
Bullock also envisions Bullock Caye being a “chilled, relaxed place.” Several of his Mavericks teammates and NBA friends have told him they plan to visit once it’s completed.
Bullock himself plans to go spend a lot of time in Bullock Caye once he retires, but his focus right now is trying to keep the Mavs alive in the West finals.
“I’ve been ripping and running my whole life. I just want to be able to go somewhere and relax after my career is over,” Bullock said.