Earlier this postseason, the Grizzlies’ Ja Morant made history by becoming the fourth player in league history to score at least 100 points in the first three playoff games of his career. Morant joined an elite roster that also includes George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Abdul-Jabbar broke and set so many records in basketball that it can be difficult to follow all the accolades. He left a lasting mark on the game, finishing his career as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points. He also won six MVP awards, as well as six championships and two Finals MVP awards. Before dominating the pros, he was a three-time NCAA champion at UCLA, where he was a three-time Final Four Outstanding Player, and also received national college player of the year honors.
Time has a unique way of reflecting the greatness of a person. Abdul-Jabbar was a force in the league for a full two decades. His playstyle, defined by his iconic skyhook, was timeless and would allow him to thrive in any age, including today. But in the three decades since he retired, Abdul-Jabbar’s on-court brilliance has faded slightly, partly due to the star power of today’s players, but also as a side effect of the passage of time.
“It’s been so long since I’ve played, people really don’t know how to compare me to current players,” says Abdul-Jabbar. “And the guys who played before me, to the average fan today, have no idea who Elgin Baylor was. They never got to see Jerry West in his prime, they couldn’t see Bill Russell’s Celtics, they won eight in a row.
“The great players of the game that came before make it very difficult to try to pick one person who will dominate everyone who has played the game. You cannot tell how LeBron James would have played against other players when you are not even aware of the other players. There are so many great players in the league. It depends on your choice. “
Abdul-Jabbar won his first NBA title in 1971 with the Milwaukee Bucks, a franchise still seeking its second championship. He won his next five with the Lakers in the 1980s, creating one of the best runs of a decade in league history. If the Lakers had won the title this season, they would have surpassed the Celtics in most of the championships in league history.
“I think the Lakers have a great team when they are healthy,” says Abdul-Jabbar. “This year, that didn’t work for them, they couldn’t stay healthy. But it is an interesting team to watch ”.
Abdul-Jabbar grew up in New York. He had the biggest impact on the court while playing for teams in California with UCLA and the Lakers, but it was the Celtics of the 1960s who were his favorites.
“Our high school coach wanted us to share the ball and play great defense,” says Abdul-Jabbar, who later watched the Celtics become their arch-rival to the Lakers in legendary battles involving Larry Bird, Kevin. McHale, Dennis Johnson, Magic Johnson and James Worthy. “That was Celtic’s modus operandi for winning a lot of championships. That kind of game really is the one that wins all the time, and it’s something that all teams should emulate. People who can relate to it have a better perspective on the game than people who can’t. “
Abdul-Jabbar’s affinity for the Celtics centered around the great Bill Russell. Russell won 11 notable championships in 13 seasons and fought tirelessly for equality as a social rights activist. Abdul-Jabbar has also spent his life fighting injustice, including receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. Now he is spreading awareness and education in a major new History Channel project, executive producer and storyteller. Fight the Power: The Movements That Changed America, a one-hour documentary that airs this Saturday. That date is particularly significant, since June 19 (June 19) is the holiday that commemorates the emancipation of slaves in the United States.
“I think people will be able to see themselves in the position of some of the protesters,” says Abdul-Jabbar. “They will understand that people are denied a fundamental right. You will get an idea of what makes protest a part of American DNA and how it relates to life in America today. “
The documentary navigates through specific movements that have pushed for equality in America, including the labor movement of the 1880s, women’s suffrage, civil rights, and the LGTBQ + and Black Lives Matter movements. By narrowing its lens on the protests, the documentary explores their impact on the country’s evolution, examining whether justice ultimately prevails when pressure is firmly applied.
“From the Civil Rights Movement to [New York] shirt strike [of 1909]From the Los Angeles riots to women’s suffrage, everyone has a time when they have to deal with the fact that things don’t always work out for them here in America, and something needs to be done and said about it, ”she says. Abdul-Jabbar. .
“I try to give people an idea of how certain circumstances make it often impossible to understand what is happening. For example, people did not believe that the American police simply indiscriminately beat people, until they had the opportunity to see the Rodney King video. [in 1992]. The fact that that kind of incontrovertible truth about what a routine traffic stop was supposed to be really got people started thinking.
“We continue to advance from there. Different incidents continued to underlie the fact that all too often the system is rigged against blacks. They are victims of the legal system or the criminal justice system, everything seems to work to make their lives miserable. We have to point these things out, and protest groups are the only way to get the message across. “
Abdul-Jabbar also praises the current generation of NBA players for the way they fight for social justice, serving as ambassadors for the game in a way that extends far beyond basketball.
“The great players in sports today do a great job representing their communities,” he says. “Many are involved in trying to solve problems in their community, and they are doing a great job identifying problems and getting people to address them. Without the public platform that they have as professional athletes, I don’t think they could do that. “
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.