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Friday, June 21, 2024

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Defies All Basketball Records with His Greatness

It is sufficient for some athletes to just bask in their own glory and conduct their lives accordingly. Others not only become experts in their sport but also broaden the opportunities available to future generations, both within the context of competition and outside of it. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar accomplished just that, even for LeBron James, who has staked a claim to the National Basketball Association lifetime scoring record that Abdul-Jabbar had so tenaciously guarded for over 40 years.

It is easy to forget now, in today’s digitised world where events that occurred a week ago are relegated to the historical dustbin, how much of a force Abdul-Jabbar was as a player and cultural bellwether. In today’s digitised world, where events that occurred a week ago are relegated to the historical dustbin. How Abdul-Jabbar, a Black man who had adopted a Muslim name, played under the hot glare of a white American public that struggled to accept him or see him as relatable while the civil rights movement was heating up in the 1960s and then simmering over the subsequent decade. This occurred while the civil rights movement was heating up in the 1960s and then simmering over the subsequent decade.

Because he made it simpler for others, like James, to follow in his footsteps, it is simple to forget what he did in the past. No matter how many of his records are broken, his name will never be removed from the pantheon of the sport’s all-time greats because of this.

Abdul-Jabbar broke new ground for black athletes by pushing the boundaries of what it meant to be a black athlete while following in the footsteps of Jackie Robinson and Bill Russell. He was, among other things, boisterous and bookish, arrogant and bashful, awkward, assertive, and elegant; but, he could also be an enormous nuisance to deal with at times. He could give the impression of being straightforward while yet being the smoothest and most cool-headed cat in the room.

To put it another way, he was not merely the agreeable, one-dimensional Black athlete that the majority of people in the United States would have desired him to be. Rather, he was a whole human being.

James has been marketing himself under the slogan “More Than a Athlete” since he began his career. Over fifty years ago, when he was still a rising star in the sport of basketball, Abdul-Jabbar was already exemplifying that ideal.

During Abdul-early Jabbar’s years as a professional basketball player, a journalist for a daily in Milwaukee stated, “He is more than a basketball player.” He is a smart guy who is still growing up, and he is aware of some of the individual and communal frailties of human beings, including his own.

The seeds that Abdul-Jabbar sowed all those years ago have finally borne fruit in the form of James’s ability to have an influence off the court on culture.

In June of 1967, when he was a rising star at the basketball powerhouse U.C.L.A., Abdul-Jabbar, then 20 years old, was the only collegian present at the Cleveland Summit, which was a meeting of prominent Black athletes who gathered in support of Muhammad Ali’s refusal to fight in the Vietnam War. The meeting was held in solidarity with Ali’s stance that he would not participate in the war.

The next year, Abdul-Jabbar skipped the Summer Olympics in order to make a statement against bigotry in the United States. During a televised interview, he made the statement that “America is not my home.” “I simply live here.”

In those days, Harry Edwards, who is now an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, led a new generation of black athletes in demonstrations against the racism that existed in the United States. The contribution that Abdul-Jabbar made to that effort was critical. In addition to this, he changed his name from Lew Alcindor to Kareem (generous) Abdul (servant of Allah) Jabbar after converting to Islam in order to express his pride in his Black African origin (powerful).

Because to Black superstars like as Muhammad Ali, Clifford Russell, Bill Russell, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, black athletes are still subject to criticism for speaking out against racism, but their voices carry more weight and their influence is greater than ever before.

The takeaway from this is not that you have “been there, done that, and there is no longer any need to hear it.” Absolutely not; that’s not the case at all.

Then then, Abdul-Jabbar at the age of 38 is a viable option. That Abdul-Jabbar, during the 1985 playoffs, took his championship series lumps with a defeat to Boston in Game 1, but he then bounced back as if he had been launched from a springboard in Bel-Air.

He then went on to win the title and the Most Valuable Player award for the finals after stringing together some of the best games of his professional career.

There has never been a player with so many kilometres on the legs to have such a successful run in the finals series.

It was simply one more manner in which Abdul-Jabbar pushed the boundaries of what it meant to be great in the NBA, leaving it to the subsequent generation and to LeBron James to take it even farther.

Dan O'Brien
Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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