By Darnell Dinkins, Contributing Writer
Posted 12:45 AM EST, Thurs., Feb. 16, 2017
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the most accomplished players to ever touch a basketball. He was a star from his days as a high school phenom at Power Memorial Academy in New York, to his days playing at UCLA for legendary coach John Wooden. There, he won three consecutive national championships.
Abdul-Jabbar says that it was his playing under coach Wooden that would shape, both, the player and the man he would become.
“He was a great teacher,’’ Abdul-Jabbar said to The Boston Globe. “He was a molder of character and basketball was just a means for him to affect us and make us deal with our character issues, because what we learned on the court were really things that translated to life.”
In the 1969 NBA draft, Abdul-Jabbar was the first pick, drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks. In his second season, after the team picked up the great point guard Oscar “ Big O” Robertson, Abdul-Jabbar won his first NBA championship. He would go on to be traded to the Lakers in 1975.
Abdul-Jabbar’s signature sky-hook shot is known to experts as one of the most unstoppable shots, in the history of the game. Wit Abdul-Jabbar’s shot and his team’s fast pace offense and key players Magic Johnson and James Worthy, the team would win five championships in the 1980’s.
Abdul-Jabbar retired after playing 20 seasons. In his years as an NBA player, he won six MVP titles and two final MVPs. He was also a 19-time All-Star and set the all-time scoring record in the NBA for most points scored. With all of these achievements, it was the man that he was off the court that exemplifies his greatness.
By many, Abdul-Jabbar was considered a shy and humble man, but he was not afraid to stand for what he believed in. On June 4, 1967, he joined athletes Jim Brown and Bill Russell to support Muhammad Ali’s refusal to fight in the Vietnam War in Cleveland at a news conference known as the Ali Summit.
Abdul-Jabbar had changed his name from Lew Alcindor after converting to the Muslim faith of Islam.
“I was latching on to something that was part of my heritage, because many of the slaves who were brought here were Muslims,” Abdul-Jabbar said during an interview with Playboy Magazine. “When I was a kid, no one would believe anything positive that you could say about black people. That’s a terrible burden on black people, because they don’t have an accurate idea of their history, which has been either suppressed or distorted.”
Abdul-Jabbar continues to be a man who voices his opinion. He recently spoke out against President Donald Trump’s campaign and his Executive Order that banned Muslims and citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering this the U.S. He recently said on CNN that the ban was “outrageous and certainly contradicts our constitution something that the president is obliged to uphold and defend.”