Last week I opened my twitter account and I was surprised to find unusual tweets from the account @kaj33, which belongs to NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabar.
“@kaj33: Rumor has it that I will be getting a statute. A caveat for all of my fans-don’t hold your breath. Lakers don’t care about me. #KAJ33”
What! The Lakers don’t care about Kareem!?! Immediately I thought this can’t be true – surely someone has hacked his account. Then a couple more tweets came through.
“@kaj33: No one hacked my account…these are my feeling and they should be known. #KAJ33”
“@kaj33: It is not just about getting a statute because I’m over it – it’s about RESPECT! Lakers have given me the absolute minimum of respect. #KAJ33”
Wow! At this point I was speechless. What is going on in LA? Who in their right mind would disrespect Kareem?
He’s the all-time NBA leading scorer and he’s won a record six regular season MVP awards. Don’t forget the nine championship teams he’s been on during his illustrious career – three at UCLA, one with the Milwaukee Bucks, and six with the Los Angeles Lakers. And you can’t forget about his trademark move – The Sky Hook.
The next tweet gave me the answer I was looking for.
“@kaj33: I will be on ESPNs Mike & Mike in the Morning tomorrow AM talking about this issue. Tune in if you want more details. #KAJ33”
Details! Yes, of course we want more details. So I tuned in to Mike & Mike and listened to Kareem’s side of the story. In my opinion, he gave a lengthy and honest interview about his NBA career and his feelings towards the Lakers.
Here’s what I learned about Kareem Abdul Jabbar…
He’s a shy gentle giant. Abdul-Jabbar explained in the interview that the rumors of him being difficult to get along with during his playing days are not true. He said, “There wasn’t any head-butting and I didn’t cause any problems.” He recalled showing up to practice on time and he keeping to himself, which he admitted has been part of his problem. He went on to say that he’s been shy his entire life and playing basketball has made him deal with his shyness. Ultimately, people took it the wrong way and he realizes that he didn’t do a good job dealing with it.
He’s a historian on and off the court. Not only did Abdul-Jabbar make history during his NBA career, he’s committed to preserving and teaching basketball history as well. During the interview he talked about his recent documentaryStanding on the Shoulders of Giants: The Story of the Greatest Basketball Team You Never Heard Of. Long before Magic, Jordan, Russell, Wilt, and Kareem – there was the Harlem Rens (short for Renaissance). Abdul-Jabbar captures the story of the Rens, one of the first black professional basketball teams (1922-1948), and its visionary owner Bob Douglas. Despite its popularity and accomplishments, the team disbanded in 1948 after being denied admission into the newly formed NBA.
What does he hope others will learn from this film?
Abdul-Jabbar said he hopes basketball fans will “learn what we had to go through to get this wonderful game and the things that had to be overcome; the segregated landscape prior to World War II was very oppressive and people had to have courage and determination that things would change in order to get to this point.”
The documentary is now streaming on Netflix, and if you haven’t seen it yet I HIGHLY recommend it. It’s not just a film for basketball fans or history buffs – it’s for everyone to remember and learn about the sacrifices and struggles that were endured to get where we are today.
He’s a LA Lakers legend and deserves to be remembered. Abdul-Jabbar retired from the Lakers in 1989 and recently joined the organization as a special assistant. When asked about his relationship with the Lakers organization, he said it was “great during his playing days.” Why did he decide to speak up now? He said the treatment was starting to wear on him and made him feel like he wasn’t appreciated and being treated like family. Abdul-Jabbar mentioned that he was asked to take a salary cut while the team was paying its head coach $10 – $12 million. And during a team flight he was seated in a tiny seat in the back of the plane while larger seats were available in the front by the coaching staff.
While these seem like small incidents to the rest of us, Abdul-Jabbar said the “smaller incidents give you the feeling that you don’t mean anything.”
Abdul-Jabbar recognizes that poor communication on his part has played a part in where the relationship stands today. He also said that he never expressed his feelings to the team, and if he had to do it all over again he would have communicated a lot sooner and a lot more vocally.
However, the comments that really struck a chord with me were his thoughts regarding why he thinks he’s been treated this way.
Abdul-Jabbar said: “Maybe it has to do with the fact that I am no use to them on the court and I am only viewed as being valuable as a player. And since that’s not possible anymore their attitude is that I am a secondary issue.” Ouch!
In the end, he added that the relationship can be repaired and he has been contacted by the Lakers organization.
My greatest wish for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is that his relationship with the Lakers organization is mended, and he receives the recognition that he wants and deserves. Also, as someone who is an aspiring professional sports owner I respect his point of view, and I will never forget the lesson that he has taught us. A person’s greatest need to feel valued and appreciated – especially the living legends.
Good Night Sports Fans,