CJ McCollum ’13, point guard for the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, will deliver the address at Lehigh’s 155th Undergraduate Spring Commencement on Sunday, May 21, 2023.
“It’s an honor for me to be back on Lehigh’s campus and to be asked to give the commencement speech 10 years after my own graduation,” McCollum said. “Lehigh has had such a profound impact on the trajectory of my life; I honed my skills as a player, developed personally as a man, and met my wife there. I’m excited to send the next class of Mountain Hawks off to start their very bright futures.”
Lehigh President Joseph J. Helble ’82 said: “I am thrilled to welcome CJ back to campus to address our graduates. Whether as a player, journalist, or entrepreneur, CJ provides a great example of someone achieving excellence through hard work and dedication, and I know he will have insights to share from a career that has taken him around the globe.”
From Lehigh to the NBA
As an undergraduate, McCollum was a journalism major. A committed student, McCollum served as an editor for The Brown & White and interned with Lehigh Athletics. In 2012, he was honored with the Class of 1904 Award, which is given based on character, scholarship, and promise of future leadership.
Strengthening his talent as a basketball athlete, McCollum played for the Mountain Hawks as a guard. He was named Patriot League Rookie of the Year in 2010, Patriot League Player of the Year in 2010 and 2012, and Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American in 2010 and 2012. As a senior, he led the nation in scoring averages with 24.9. He scored double-figure points in 33 straight games and 100 of his 109 career games. One of his dunks was featured as a top 10 play on ESPN’s SportsCenter. McCollum was the first student-athlete from Lehigh to enter the NBA.
A stellar career on the court
McCollum was drafted 10th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2013. In his eight-year tenure with the team, McCollum was named the Most Improved Player during his third season (2015-2016) and led the Blazers to the 2019 Western Conference Finals.
He was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in 2022, leading the team to the playoffs that same year.
A proven leader among his peers, McCollum was elected president of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) in 2021 for a four-year term. In this role, he represents the interests of all NBA players and provides thought leadership on ways to create further opportunities for players to invest in themselves and the game through financial literacy and wealth creation.
McCollum also serves as president of the NBPA Foundation, an organization with a mission to highlight and celebrate the work of players to impact their communities worldwide.
A philanthropic mindset
McCollum has been an engaged member of the communities in which he lives and works. In partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs, he created the CJ McCollum Dream Centers, innovative spaces that provide necessary resources to help students from underserved communities learn, explore, create, grow, and challenge thinking about life’s possibilities. He also leads the CJ’s Press Pass Program, a journalism-based mentorship program for high school students that offers opportunities to learn more about the industry. He works to address food insecurity through strategic partnerships with the Akron-Canton Food Bank and Goodr and serves as a board member of the athlete-led Social Change Fund United, an organization that works to address social justice issues. McCollum is a two-time winner of the NBA’s Community Assist award and was a finalist for the J. Walter Kennedy Citizen Award, given to a member of the professional basketball community who shows outstanding service and dedication to the local community.
Beyond his work in service to others, McCollum has been an active member of the sports media landscape, serving as an NBA analyst for ESPN and hosting the CJ McCollum Show podcast. As an entrepreneur, he founded a wine label in 2018 and continued his family’s legacy in wine through the acquisition of 318 acres in the Yamhill-Carlton American Viticultural Area (AVA), home to Oregon wine industry pioneers and winemaking experts. His goal is to build a vineyard and operate a plant nursery on the property.
McCollum is the husband of Dr. Elise McCollum ’13, ’14G, whom he met at Lehigh, and father to son Jacobi, age one. The McCollum family and their beloved dog, Fiona, reside in Metairie, Louisiana.
Visit the Commencement website for more information on Commencement programming and updates.
The 2023 schedule is as follows:
Graduate Commencement and Doctoral Hooding Ceremony
Recognizing master’s and doctoral candidates
Saturday, May 20 - 10:00 a.m. ET at Goodman Stadium
Saturday, May 20 - 5:00 p.m. ET at Packer Memorial Church
Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony
Sunday, May 21 - 10:00 a.m. ET at Goodman Stadium