Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: biography
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (original name is Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr.) is a former American professional basketball player. The sportsman had a long career – he spent 20 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) performing for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers. As an experienced player, Abdul-Jabbar has got many awards and nominations for his excellent games.
He is often compared to such top sportsmen as Shaquille O'Neal, Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Chamberlain, Larry Bird and Hakeem Olajuwon – together they make a list of the best basketball players ever. So, let's know more about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar!
Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr.'s birthplace is New York City – he was born there on April 16, 1974, to the family of Cora Lillian, a department store price checker, and Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Sr., a transit police officer, and jazz musician. As a child, Ferdinand differed from his mates by his height and weight - he weighed 12 lb 11 oz (5.75 kg) and was 22 1⁄2 inches (57 cm) long, and by the age of nine, he was already 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m) tall. His parents were Catholic and brought him up according to their religion. However, it didn't stop him from accepting Islam.
As a school student, Abdul-Jabbar outdid children around by his physical features. There is a funny story about his height. So, once a teacher went into the classroom. The children greeted him and sat down. The professor was surprised, why Ferdinand didn't sit and kept on staying. Then he said the boy to sit down. Ferdinand answered:
«I'm already sitting, sir.»
The sportsman became interested in basketball at an early age – he was a perfect player while studying at Jack Donahue's Power Memorial Academy. He led the team to 71 consecutive wins, to victory in New York City Catholic championship. Due to it, Ferdinand Alcindor got a nickname – «The tower from Power.» In three years of performing, the sportsman scored 2067 points and 2002 rebounds. Having graduated from high school in 1965, the player had to go to the USA Army. He was said unfit and was exempt from serving due to his enormous height.
Later he entered the UCLA where joined students’ basketball team where succeeded to become a champion. The rules didn't let him join a primary team cause he was a freshman. However, even without it, the sportsman's excellence and professionality were noted. Totally, in three years Kareem spent playing for the college, his team won 88 times and became the NCAA Champions three times.
As a freshman, on January 12, 1968, Ferdinand Lewis got injured - he was struck by Tom Henderson and suffered a scratched left cornea. As a result, the sportsman had to miss two following matches. Remarkably, he would later injury his cornea and have to wear goggles for eye protection.
January 20, 1968, was marked by the fight between Alcindor's team and the Houston Cougars in the first-ever nationally televised regular-season college basketball game. There were 52,693 spectators at the Astrodome. Although Houston was named the winner because of Kareem's injury and inability to play well, they had a rematch in the semi-finals of the NCAA Tournament where Alcindor's team defeated the opposer 101-69.
Professional basketball career
As a result of his perfect performances, the player was offered by the Harlem Globetrotters to sign a $1 million contract. However, he denied and applied for participation in the NBA draft 1969. There he was chosen by the Milwaukee Bucks – a young team. Besides, Abdul-Jabbar decided to take part in the 1969 American Basketball Association draft where was selected by the New York Nets. The franchise was sure Kareem would go to them cause he was from New York. However, Alcindor joined the Milwaukee after they offered $1,4 million. Then, the Nets offered him $3,25 million, but the player denied – he didn't want to look like «a flesh peddler.»
The Bucks were lucky to have such a perfect player – Alcindor. He helped the franchise to finish second in the NBA's Eastern Division with a 56–26 record in 1970.
The next season, All-Star guard Oscar Robertson joined the Bucks' crew. The team carried on improving their stats – in the 1970-71 season they made 66 wins. That time Kareem was the best team's player in terms of points – he had 2596 ones. The Milwaukee advanced to the play-off and became the champions. On May 1, 1971, the day after the Bucks won the NBA championship; he adopted the Muslim name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it is translated as "generous/noble (Kareem), servant of (Abdul) the mighty/stern one (Jabbar) [i.e., of God]."
As time passed, Kareem became displeased by his team. He demanded to be transferred to the New York Knicks or the Los Angeles. So, in 1975, the sportsman was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. Already in the first season, he outdid his mates by the number of points, block-shots, and rebounds. He averaged 27,7 points per game.
Shortly after, Abdul-Jabbar developed corneal erosion syndrome, but it didn't affect his productivity. He missed one game in the 1986–87 season when his eyes dried out and swelled.
The 1976-1977 season was also successful for Kareem. He led his team to the play-off where they won the Golden State Warriors. When in 1979 top player Magic Johnson was selected in the draft by the Lakers, this team became one of the strongest franchises. So, in the 1980s they got to the finals for eight times, won 5 NBA Championships.
To improve his flexibility, Kareem took up doing yoga.
In summer 1989, Abdul-Jabbar announced his retirement after the upcoming season. On his «retirement tour» he received standing ovations at games, home and away and gifts. Every player wore Abdul-Jabbar's trademark goggles and had to try a skyhook at least once, which led to comic results. The Lakers were beaten by the Pistons in a four-game sweep in his last game.
By the time of his leaving, Kareem had set a record for most points (38,387), most field goals made (15,837), and most minutes played (57,446).
Having retired, Abdul-Jabbar became an assistant for the Los Angeles Clippers and the Seattle Super Sonics. In recent years, he developed a reputation for being introverted and sullen cause he has always strived to avoid communicating with journalists.
In 2002 Kareem served as the head coach of the Oklahoma Storm of the United States Basketball League.
In 2016, he performed a tribute to friend Muhammad Ali along with Chance the Rapper. He is also co-author of a comic book published by Titan Comics entitled Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown and Bill Russell received the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award in honor of their athletic achievement and leadership as social activists.
Abdul-Jabbar’s net worth is evaluated at $20 million.
He made the NBA's 35th Anniversary Team and was named one of its 50 greatest players of all time in 1996. Abdul-Jabbar is regarded as one of the best centers ever, and league experts and basketball legends frequently mentioned him when considering the greatest player of all time.
In 2015, ESPN named Abdul-Jabbar the best center in NBA history, and ranked him No. 2 behind Michael Jordan among the greatest NBA players ever. While Jordan's shots were enthralling and considered unfathomable, Abdul-Jabbar's skyhook appeared automatic, and he himself called the shot «unsexy.»
NBA career statistics
- 1986-1987 season. 78 games played, 31.3 mpg, .564 fg, .717 ft, 6.7 rpg, 2.6 apg, 17.5 ppg;
- 1987-1988 season. 80 games played, 28.9 mpg, .532 fg, .762 ft, 6.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, 14.6 ppg;
- 1988-1989 season. 74 games played, 22.9 mpg, .475 fg, .739 ft, 4.5 rpg, 1.0 apg, 10.1 ppg.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was married to Habiba Abdul-Jabbar, born Janice Brown, and they have three children: Habiba, Sultana, and Kareem Jr. They divorced in 1978. He has another son, Adam, with his ex-girlfriend Cheryl Pistono.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar converted to Islam when he was 24.
He was diagnosed with a form of leukemia in 2008. In 2001 he announced in Twitter that his leukemia had gone. In the meanwhile, he became a spokesperson for Novartis, the company that produced his cancer medication.
The sportsman has appeared in the movie Game of Death along with Bruce Lee in 1978 and in the movies Green Book and Enter the Dragon. He has also trained with Bruce Lee. Besides, Abdul-Jabbar has been invited to many TV-shows, including Fresh Off the Boat, The Big Bang Theory, Keeping Up With Kardashians.
He has recorded his book on the Harlem Renaissance titled «On the Shoulders of Giants» as an audiobook along with other actors and artists.
His favorite books include «Between the World and Me» by Ta-Nehisi Coates, «But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz» by Geoff Dyer and Conan Doyle's Sherlock stories.
Abdul-Jabbar is an avid coin collector and was appointed to the Citizens Coin Advisory Council, which decides the coins that are minted in the US.
Achievements and awards
- 6× NBA champion (1971, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988);
- 2× NBA Finals MVP (1971, 1985);
- 6× NBA Most Valuable Player (1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1980);
- 6× NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1970, 1971, 1976–1978, 1984);
- 2× Mr. Basketball USA (1964, 1965).