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NBA Legacies: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The life and career of the NBA superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a best-selling author, martial arts expert, and the second most decorated basketball player of all time. The 74 year old ex-NBA player still holds multiple records in the NBA and is one of the greatest ever to grace the court. 

Kareem is not only famous for his rings but his skill in the game and his trademark “skyhook” shot. 

Not many can match the incredible career and life of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. 

The College Years 

Abdul-Jabbar was born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr.. He played basketball throughout high school. Abdul-Jabbar possibly has the most impressive high school career ever – he ended his three years with a 79-2 record. 

Abdul-Jabbar claimed that high school was a difficult time for him. He was bullied for both his height and the color of his skin. He had a particularly strained relationship with his coach who was constantly referring to him using racial slurs. 

When Abdul-Jabbar arrived at college, Freshmen were not allowed to play in collegiate matches. However, he was able to play in the freshmen team. Abdul-Jabbar studied at UCLA and made his first appearance for the college at their annual varsity versus freshmen event. 

UCLA was two-time NCAA champions – and led by Abdul-Jabbar, the freshmen team won 75-60. Abdul-Jabbar scored over half the points for his team. 

Abdul-Jabbar took part in the first televised regular-season game, which is now known as “the Game of the Century”. Houston won 71-69, which broke UCLA’s 45 game winning streak. Many believe UCLA lost this game because Abdul-Jabbar sustained an eye injury half way through. 

Abdul-Jabbar’s team ended his 3 years with an absurd record of 88-2, and Abdul-Jabbar only played in one of the games they lost. 

The NBA Years 

During his 20 year career in the NBA, Abdul-Jabbar averaged 24.6 points per game, 11.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 2.6 blocks (during the first 4 years of Abdul-Jabbar’s career the NBA didn’t even record blocks).

He played for the Bucks for the first 6 years of his career and then spent his final 14 years with the Lakers. 

During his 20 years in the NBA Abdul-Jabbar scored 38,387 points – making him the all-time leading points scorer. He also holds the record for most league MVP awards with 6. He named an NBA All-Star 19 times (a record breaking number), won 6 NBA championship rings, 2 NBA Finals awards, and was named to the NBA’s first or second team 15 times.  

Abdul-Jabbar was picked first in the 1969 draft, by the Bucks. The Bucks were a new team the year before. Abdul-Jabbar turned down a $1 million dollar contract with the Harlem Globetrotters to join the 1969 draft. 

Abdul-Jabbar was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contribution to Basketball and Civil Rights by President Obama in 2016.

Life Outside the NBA

Abdul-Jabbar is and always has been an outspoken activist. In 1968 he chose to boycott the Olympics, despite being a shoo-in for the team. He was very public about the fact that he would not be going to the Olympics in protest of how African Americans were treated in the country. 

During his life, Abdul-Jabbar has written many bestselling books, celebrating the lives of black people throughout history. One of his most notable books was Brothers in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, World War II’s Forgotten Heroes. This book followed the stories of an all-black armored tank unit that served with distinction in Europe. 

Abdul-Jabbar was also a passionate practitioner of martial arts and contributed his long and successful career to the techniques he learned from his fighting. Abdul-Jabbar started practicing martial arts in college and still practices today. 

One of the most interesting things about Abdul-Jabbar is that he did the majority of his martial arts training with the legendary Bruce Lee. Abdul-Jabbar claims that Lee’s lessons and shared wisdom changed his life. 

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.


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