Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the top-scoring basketball player of all time. Born Lewis Alcindor on April 16, 1947, he grew up in New York City where he led Power Memorial High School’s basketball team to a 95-6 record. He was a highly regarded prep and landed on the UCLA Bruins. Alcindor won three consecutive NCAA titles from 1967-1969, leading the Bruins to an 88-2 record. He was also named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player those 3 years, the first and only player to do that. He was also named College Player of the Year by all the major organizations (TSN, AP, UP, USBWA) from 1967-1969. His Collegiate Success, and reputation as perhaps the best College Player of All-Time, translated into his Number One Selection in the 1969 Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. He left UCLA as their all-time leading scorer with 2,325 points.
Lewis changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the early 1970’s when he converted to Islam. He played with the Bucks for 6 years, being named the League MVP in a Milwaukee uniform in 1971, 1972 and 1974 (he would win 3 more as a Laker). Kareem won his only NBA title with the Bucks, and fellow Hall of Fame great Oscar Robinson in 1971. Four of his six years in Milwaukee he averaged better than 30 points a game.
The Milwaukee era ended with his trade to the Lakers for the 1975-76 season. In Los Angeles he won 3 more MVP Trophies (1976, 1977 and 1980) and teamed up with another MVP, Magic Johnson, to win 5 more NBA titles (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988). Kareem was also named the NBA Finals MVP in 1971 and 1985. Over his career, Kareem won 6 MVP Trophies and 6 World Championships, along with 9 NBA all-time records.
Jabbar’s career records include:
- Points: 38,387
- Playoff Points: 5,762
- Seasons Played: 20 (recently broken by Robert Parish)
- Minutes Played: 57,446
- Games Played: 1,560 (also broken by Parish)
- Field Goals Made: 15,837
- Field Goal Attempts: 28,307
- Blocks: 3,189
- MVP Awards: 6
Kareem’s was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1995, following the end of his career, and was named to the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players of All Time Team in 1996. Kareem was a fan favorite, playing in 18 all-star games over his long career. Kareem’s 7’2″ frame was ideally suited to dominate in the middle against the big men and was by far the best center who played during the 1970s and 1980s. His signature trademarks were his “sky-hook” and his goggles.
He cites baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson as his greatest inspiration, both “as an athlete and as someone who was trying to make a stand for equality.”
In addition to basketball, Kareem has made several film appearances—most notably as Bruce Lee’s opponent at the close of Game of Death and as co-pilot Murdock in the slapstick comedy Airplane.
Kareem is the author of A Season On The Reservation, a book he wrote about his five months in 1998 coaching an Apache high school basketball team on the White Mountain Reservation in Arizona. It was a positive experience for both the youths he coached and for Abdul-Jabbar himself. He had become disillusioned with basketball and his students rekindled his interest in the game.
“I didn’t realize that my time would have as much to do with teaching the kids about the game of life as about the sport of basketball,” he wrote. “And I had come here as much a student as instructor.”
He urges kids “to pursue their basketball dreams, but I would tell them to not let that be their only dream. You should have dreams as students in addition to having dreams as athletes. They should have goals. Give both sides time and a chance to evolve.”
Kareem has a prescription from the state of California to legally use marijuana to treat the nausea-inducing migraine headaches which have troubled him for years.
When asked in an interview how he deals with having millions of fans, he replied, “I don’t have to see them all everyday. That helps tremendously.”
On February 18, 2000, Kareem was named assistant coach of the LA Clippers.