Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Unisex T-Shirt
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Finally, a way to show your respect for some of the greatest icons, legends and pioneers that paved the way past and present. Rock this gear in style and bring back the moments that made you, memories they gave you and/or lessons they taught you. Scroll down for a history lesson with some of our favorite clips.
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Kareem Abdul Jabbar – Vintage NBA (Basketball Documentary)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr.; April 16, 1947) is an American former professional basketball player who played 20 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers. During his career as a center, Abdul-Jabbar was a record six-time NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP), a record 19-time NBA All-Star, a 15-time All-NBA selection, and an 11-time NBA All-Defensive Team member. A member of six NBA championship teams as a player and two more as an assistant coach, Abdul-Jabbar twice was voted NBA Finals MVP. In 1996, he was honored as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. NBA coach Pat Riley and players Isiah Thomas and Julius Erving called him the greatest basketball player of all time.
With him on the team, parochial high school Power Memorial, in New York City, won 71 consecutive basketball games. He was recruited by Jerry Norman, the assistant coach at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he played for coach John Wooden on three consecutive national championship teams. He was a record three-time MVP of the NCAA Tournament. Drafted with the first overall pick by the one-season-old Bucks franchise in the 1969 NBA draft, Alcindor spent six seasons in Milwaukee. After leading the Bucks to its first NBA championship at age 24 in 1971, he took the Muslim name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Using his trademark “skyhook” shot, he established himself as one of the league’s top scorers. In 1975, he was traded to the Lakers, with whom he played the final 14 seasons of his career in which they won five additional NBA championships. Abdul-Jabbar’s contributions were a key component in the “Showtime” era of Lakers basketball. Over his 20-year NBA career, his teams succeeded in making the playoffs 18 times and got past the first round 14 times; his teams reached the NBA Finals on 10 occasions.
At the time of his retirement at age 42 in 1989, Abdul-Jabbar was the NBA’s all-time leader in points scored (38,387), games played (1,560), minutes played (57,446), field goals made (15,837), field goal attempts (28,307), blocked shots (3,189), defensive rebounds (9,394), career wins (1,074), and personal fouls (4,657). He remains the all-time leader in points scored, field goals made, and career wins. He is ranked third all-time in both rebounds and blocked shots. ESPN named him the greatest center of all time in 2007, the greatest player in college basketball history in 2008, and the second best player in NBA history (behind Michael Jordan) in 2016. Abdul-Jabbar has also been an actor, a basketball coach, a best-selling author, and a martial artist, having trained in Jeet Kune Do under Bruce Lee and appeared in his film Game of Death (1972). In 2012, Abdul-Jabbar was selected by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be a U.S. global cultural ambassador. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Highlights in his Prime / 1969 – 1975
Milwaukee Bucks (1969–1975)
The Harlem Globetrotters offered Alcindor $1 million to play for them, but he declined and was picked first in the 1969 NBA draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, who were in only their second season of existence. The Bucks won a coin-toss with the Phoenix Suns for first pick. He was also chosen first overall in the 1969 American Basketball Association draft by the New York Nets. The Nets believed that they had the upper hand in securing Alcindor’s services because he was from New York; however, when Alcindor told both the Bucks and the Nets that he would accept only one offer from each team, the Nets bid too low. Sam Gilbert negotiated the contract along with Los Angeles businessman Ralph Shapiro at no charge. After Alcindor chose the Milwaukee Bucks’ offer of $1.4 million, the Nets offered a guaranteed $3.25 million. Alcindor declined the offer, saying, “A bidding war degrades the people involved. It would make me feel like a flesh peddler, and I don’t want to think like that.”
Alcindor’s presence enabled the 1969–70 Bucks to claim second place in the NBA’s Eastern Division with a 56–26 record (improved from 27–55 the previous year). On February 21, 1970, he scored 51 points in a 140-127 win over the SuperSonics. Alcindor was an instant star, ranking second in the league in scoring (28.8 ppg) and third in rebounding (14.5 rpg), for which he was awarded the title of NBA Rookie of the Year. In the series-clinching game against the 76ers, he recorded 46 points and 25 rebounds. With that, he joins Wilt Chamberlain as the only rookies to record at least 40 points and 25 rebounds in a playoff game in their rookie season. He also set an NBA rookie record with 10 or more games of 20+ points scored during the playoffs, tied by Jayson Tatum in 2018.
The next season, the Bucks acquired All-Star guard Oscar Robertson. Milwaukee went on to record the best record in the league with 66 victories in the 1970–71 season, including a then-record 20 straight wins. Alcindor was awarded his first of six NBA Most Valuable Player Awards, along with his first scoring title (31.7 ppg). He also led the league in total points, with 2,596. The Bucks won the NBA title, sweeping the Baltimore Bullets 4–0 in the 1971 NBA Finals. Alcindor posted 27 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in Game 4, and he was named the Finals MVP after averaging 27 points per game on 60.5% shooting in the series. During the offseason, Alcindor and Robertson joined Bucks head coach Larry Costello on a three-week basketball tour of Africa on behalf of the State Department. In a press conference at the State Department on June 3, 1971, he stated that going forward, he wanted to be called by his Muslim name, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Arabic: كريم عبد الجبار, Karīm Abd al-Jabbār), its translation roughly “noble one, servant of the Almighty [i.e., servant of Allah]”. He had converted to Islam while at UCLA.
Abdul-Jabbar remained a dominant force for the Bucks. The following year, he repeated as scoring champion (34.8 ppg and 2,822 total points) and became the first player to be named the NBA Most Valuable Player twice in his first three years. In 1974, Abdul-Jabbar led the Bucks to their fourth consecutive Midwest Division title, and he won his third MVP Award in four years. He was among the top five NBA players in scoring (27.0 ppg, third), rebounding (14.5 rpg, fourth), blocked shots (283, second), and field goal percentage (.539, second).
Robertson, who became a free agent in the offseason, retired in September 1974 after he was unable to agree on a contract with the Bucks. On October 3, Abdul-Jabbar privately requested a trade to the New York Knicks, with his second choice being the Washington Bullets (now the Wizards) and his third, the Los Angeles Lakers. He had never spoken negatively of the city of Milwaukee or its fans, but he said that being in the Midwest did not fit his cultural needs. Two days later in a pre-season game before the 1974–75 season against the Boston Celtics in Buffalo, New York, Abdul-Jabbar caught a fingernail in his left eye from Don Nelson and suffered a corneal abrasion; this angered him enough to punch the backboard stanchion, breaking two bones his right hand. He missed the first 16 games of the season, during which the Bucks were 3–13, and returned in late November wearing protective goggles. On March 13, 1975, sportscaster Marv Albert reported that Abdul-Jabbar requested a trade to either New York or Los Angeles, preferably to the Knicks. The following day after a loss in Milwaukee to the Lakers, Abdul-Jabbar confirmed to reporters his desire to play in another city. He averaged 30.0 points during the season, but Milwaukee finished in last place in the division at 38–44.
Los Angeles Lakers (1975–1989)
In 1975, the Lakers acquired Abdul-Jabbar and reserve center Walt Wesley from the Bucks for center Elmore Smith, guard Brian Winters, blue-chip rookies Dave Meyers and Junior Bridgeman, and cash. In the 1975–76 season, his first with the Lakers, he had a dominating season, averaging 27.7 points per game and leading the league in rebounding (16.9), blocked shots (4.12), and total minutes played (3,379). His 1,111 defensive rebounds remains the NBA single-season record (defensive rebounds were not recorded prior to the 1973–74 season). He earned his fourth MVP award, becoming the first winner in Lakers’ franchise history, but missed the post-season for the second straight year as the Lakers finished 40–42.
Afer acquiring a cast of no-name free agents, the Lakers were projected to finished near the bottom of the Pacific Division in 1976–77. However, Abdul-Jabbar helped lead the team to the best record (53–29) in the NBA. He won his fifth MVP award, tying Bill Russell‘s record. Abdul-Jabbar led the league in field goal percentage (.579), was third in scoring (26.2), and was second in rebounds (13.3) and blocked shots (3.18). In the playoffs, the Lakers beat the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference semi-finals, setting up a confrontation with the Portland Trail Blazers. The result was a memorable matchup, pitting Abdul-Jabbar against a young, injury-free Bill Walton. Although Abdul-Jabbar dominated the series statistically, Walton and the Trail Blazers (who were experiencing their first-ever run in the playoffs) swept the Lakers, behind Walton’s skillful passing and timely plays.
Two minutes into the opening game of the 1977–78 season, Abdul-Jabbar broke his right hand punching Milwaukee’s Kent Benson in retaliation to the rookie’s elbow to his stomach. Benson suffered a black right eye and required two stitches. Accoring to Benson, Abdul-Jabbar initiated the elbowing, but there were no witnesses and it was not captured on replays. Abdul-Jabbar, who broke the same bone in 1975 after he punched the backboard support, was out for almost two months and missed 20 games. He was fined a then-league record $5,000 but was not suspended. Benson missed one game but was not punished by the league. The Lakers were 8–13 when Abdul-Jabbar returned. He was not named to the 1978 NBA All-Star Game, the only time in his 20-year career he was not selected to an All-Star Game. Chicago’s Artis Gilmore and Detroit’s Bob Lanier were chosen as reserves for the West, with Walton starting at center. Amid criticism from the media over his performance, Abdul-Jabbar had 39 points, 20 rebounds, six assists and four blocks in a win over the Philadelphia 76ers the day the All-Star rosters were announced. He added 37 points and 30 rebounds in a victory over the New Jersey Nets (now Brooklyn) in the final game before the All-Star break.
Abdul-Jabbar’s play remained strong during the next two seasons, being named to the All-NBA Second Team twice, the All-Defense First Team once, and the All-Defense Second Team once. The Lakers, however, continued to be stymied in the playoffs, being eliminated by the Seattle SuperSonics in both 1978 (first round) and 1979 (semifinals).
In 1979, the Lakers selected Magic Johnson with the first overall pick of the draft. They had acquired the pick from the New Orleans Jazz (later Utah) in 1976, when league rules required that they compensate Los Angeles for their signing of free agent Gail Goodrich. The addition of Johnson paved the way for a Laker dynasty of the 1980s, appearing in the finals eight times and winning five NBA championships. While less dominant than in his younger years, Abdul-Jabbar reinforced his status as one of the greatest basketball players ever, adding an additional four All-NBA First Team selections and two All-Defense First Team honors. He won his record sixth MVP award in 1980 and continued to average 20 or more points per game in the following six seasons. At age 38, he won his second Finals MVP in 1985. On April 5, 1984, Abdul-Jabbar broke Chamberlain’s record for most career points. Later in his career, he bulked up to about 265 pounds (120 kg), to be able to withstand the strain of playing the highly physical center position into his early 40s.
While in Los Angeles, Abdul-Jabbar started doing yoga in 1976 to improve his flexibility, and was notable for his physical fitness regimen. He says, “There is no way I could have played as long as I did without yoga.”
In 1983, Abdul-Jabbar’s house burned down. Many of his belongings, including his beloved jazz LP collection of about 3,000 albums, were destroyed. Many Lakers fans sent and brought him albums, which he found uplifting.
The Lakers made the NBA Finals in each of Abdul-Jabbar’s final three seasons, defeating Boston in 1987, and Detroit in 1988. The Lakers lost to the Pistons in a four-game sweep in his final season. After winning Game 7 of the 1988 finals, the 41-year-old Abdul-Jabbar announced in the locker room that he would return for one more season before retiring. His points, rebounds, and minutes had dropped in his 19th season, and there were reports prior to the game that he was retiring after the contest. On his “retirement tour” he received standing ovations at games, both home and away, and gifts ranging from a yacht that said “Captain Skyhook” to framed jerseys from his career to a Persian rug. In his biography My Life, Magic Johnson recalls that many Lakers and Celtics legends participated in Abdul-Jabbar’s farewell game. At the Forum against Seattle in his final regular season game, every Laker came onto the court wearing Abdul-Jabbar’s trademark goggles and had to try a skyhook at least once, which led to comic results.
At the time of his retirement, Abdul-Jabbar held the record for most games played by a single player in the NBA; this would later be broken by Robert Parish. He also was the all-time record holder for most points (38,387), most field goals made (15,837), and most minutes played (57,446).
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