People Are Missing the Point with Kareem

A lot of people are taking shots at Kareem Abdul-Jabbar after his frustration over no statute of him at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

I think those people are missing the point.  This is about way more than a damn statue.

Abdul-Jabbar was never fully embraced by the media and fans alike.  He was socially conscious and a political activist since the 1960s.  He – along with Jim Brown, Bill Russell, and Muhammad Ali – were ostracized by potential sponsors because of that.

Abdul-Jabbar supported a boycott of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, which put him on the wrong side of many members of the media.  Keep in mind that he changed his name from Lew Alcindor to “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar” after converting to Islam during that time.

He never had the cheesing smile of his former teammate Magic Johnson.  He was a loner and an introvert (like yours’ truly), who didn’t care about what people thought of him.  For those reasons, he was perceived as mean and aloof.

That has to be why he has been slighted by the Lakers, the media, and the NBA.  It couldn’t had been his basketball career:

  • The NBA’s all-time leading scorer
  • 6-time NBA Champion
  • 6-time NBA Most Valuable Player (most ever)
  • 19-time NBA All-Star
  • 10-time All-NBA First Team
  • 5-time NBA All-Defensive First Team
  • #33 retired by Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers

It has to be killing Abdul-Jabbar that he is not involved with the Lakers.  He is not honored and taken care of in the similar manner of Johnson, Jerry West, and even James Worthy!

It also has to be killing Abdul-Jabbar that he is not involved with the Lakers nor the NBA in coaching/mentoring capacities.  No one can tell me that Abdul-Jabbar cannot be a valuable asset on a team’s bench, and that’s too bad.

I think that Abdul-Jabbar is mad at the slights he received during and after his playing career.  The statue brouhaha was only the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Categories: NBA, sports story

4 replies

  1. The only player with those kinds of accomplishments in any sport that is treated so poorly. Barry Bonds comes close, but we ALL know why people have that opinion of him. Kareem is the equivalent of Wayne Gretzky who is considered a treasure in both Canada and the US, but because of personal crap he gets no respect. I don’t blame him.

  2. The sportswriters pretty much complained unanimously that Kareem was surly, unapproachable and a bad interview. I have no way of knowing which came first, the chicken or the egg. Did he get poor treatment from the media and then shut them out? Or was he rude and aloof first?

    Kareem has admitted that he didn’t market himself, create allegiences or build any bridges to support his post playing career. He acknowledges that this was a mistake on his part. There is probably blame on both sides.

    Of course, early in Kareem’s career, there were no black coaches, TV personalities, endorsement deals or other incentives to build those kind of relationships with the press or NBA administration. When the ’80’s hit and it was suddenly cool to be black, Kareem’s rep was already set.

    It hurt him that there was such an obvious contrast between his demeanor and teammate Magic’s affable personality and endorsement ready smile.

    But by now I think any reasonable person would agree that he’s paid the price for any transgressions from years ago.

    Statue? Yes – He deserves one for his play on the court.

    Coaching job? – Well, that’s another story. Coaches do more than draw up plays and teach. They have to bring personalities together, counsel, advise and shape different folks into a team with a unified purpose.

    Can he do that? I have no idea. But he doesn’t “deserve” a coaching job in the same way that he’s earned a statue.

    Pat Riley, Red and Phil are considered the best coaches. None were star players.

  3. Kareem absolutely deserves a shot at coaching. He’s played for the best coaches ever, Wooden and Riley. He also has been a trainer/assistant coach for Andrew Bynum under Phil Jackson. How could you NOT give him a chance.

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