On Friday, November 16, 2012, the Los Angeles Lakers saluted their legendary captain Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with a statu of his likeness. The unveiling of his statue will signify the important role he played in five NBA World Championship titles in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988.
Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr., was born on April 16th to proud parents Cora and Lewis Alcindor Sr. and the game of basketball would never be the same. Lewis Alcindor was a young boy who loved, played and excelled at baseball, but that game was not to be for the young Alcindor, because he kept growing taller and taller. Basketball in the city of New York and Harlem’s Rucker League would not let Lewis exist without basketball as the game to play and he did. When it was established that the big kid was coordinated and could play, the world for Lewis Alcindor changed. There was no-where for him to hide.
In basketball exuberant New York, when a player catches the attention of those on the playgrounds and the streets of the city the word spreads. During the early to mid-1960s Harlem was also a hotbed and center of African American culture and cry for civil rights. Mr. Alcindor was a transit police officer by day and a jazz musician by night. Alcindor Sr. exposed and influenced Lewis Jr. encouraging his son to develop a love for jazz music, the history and culture that was so tightly knit to social and civil activism.
The New York environment of young Alcindor was infused with music, literature and art. Civil and social issues were improvised by genius artist. The creative sounds of Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison were a four quarter balance to four quarters of Russell verses Chamberlain battles on the hardwood for Lewis Alcindor Jr.
The visual impact of the works of African American artist such as Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Joshua Johnson and Aaron Douglas would set the stage for Alcindor’s second act in life.
The historical pride on the streets of Harlem and the bellowing outcry for freedom through justice and civil rights by Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X helped fuse a level of academic excellence in young Alcindor.
Alcindor led his Power Memorial high school teams to three consecutive New York City Catholic championships winning 71 straight games and finishing with a record of 79-2 over three years. He was already a basketball legend and the desire of every major college basketball program that had a dream. The only thing was whoever would land this prospect would be getting more than just a basketball player.
UCLA signed Lew Alcindor a unique young man. Alcindor, like other students and athletes had to have a B+ average to enroll at UCLA from out of state. Alcindor had no problems meeting this academic requirement.
Lew Alcindor prospered as a person, a student and a basketball player under the teaching of Coach John Wooden. After his first year on varsity Alcindor was so dominant that he forced the NCAA to develop a no dunking rule to prevent him and his Bruin teammates from totally annihilating men’s Division I college basketball. Alcindor was more than just a player he changed the game of college basketball. The rule was NO dunking in college basketball; the NCAA rule lasted for ten years. Even if you are not old enough, can you imagine how good of a player Lew Alcindor was to impact basketball this way? He was this good of a player with a great work ethic he executed the fundamentals of the game.
Lew Alcindor, along with boxing great and former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, NBA and college Champion Bill Russell and Jim Brown arguably the greatest NFL running back of all-time, gathered to show their support in boycotting the 1968 Olympic Games to bring attention to the plight of Blacks in America and South Africa’s apartheid.
With the 7”2” Alcindor at center, UCLA won an unprecedented three NCAA national championships. This is a record that remains untouched today. During the Alcindor era UCLA went 88-2 and he was named College Player of the Year, three years in a row
Wooden would say that Alcindor was a great team player but had he unleashed him on college basketball as a scorer Alcindor would have been the all-time leading scorer ever in college basketball history. During this timeframe in college basketball, “Pistol” Pete Maravich averaged 44 points a game at LSU. You get the picture? Kareem is the greatest college basketball player of all-time. No one can compare. It needs to be said more often. In 1969, Lew Alcindor graduated from UCLA, with the college degree he was determined to obtain.
Lew Alcindor converted to Islam and changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar going into his professional basketball career.
Kareem had a champion’s mindset from his early stages and throughout his career. However, over the years Kareem festered a reputation with the media of one who was difficult to interview, sometimes sullen in attitude, did not sign autographs, hard to understand or get to know, difficult etc . . . , etc . . . , etc . . . For those who know Kareem and communicate from points of interest they have experienced the gracious entertaining story teller and intellectual Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
In 1989, at the age of 42, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar retired the greatest winner in the history of the game of basketball at all levels. Upon his retirement from the NBA Kareem was and still reigns as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points. Six NBA championships, six season and two finals MVPs, nineteen all-star appearances, five first and six second team NBA All-Defensive Teams and the list of records goes on.
The cultural influences of Kareem’s early life has manifested in the second act of his life. His bibliography is inclusive of eight books in addition to an eight set CD Audio Book. The arc of his work is deeply embedded in the tapestry of American History. Kareem’s latest book is a gift for children entitled, “What Color Is My World?”, it is the story of selected African American Inventors.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has gathered numerous film credits over the years. I am submitting the nomination for Kareem to receive best choreographer credit for the Sky Hook.
The American Professional Basketball Player, author, actor, coach documentarian, historian and choreographer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will receive his well deserved statue along side the other all-time greats outside the Staple Center. Kareem is more than a statue.