Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem: (1947- ) U.S. basketball player; former name Lewis Ferdinand Alcindor. He played professionally for the Milwaukee Bucks from 1969-75 and the Los Angeles Lakers from 1975-89 and holds several records.
He was a thing of beauty.
I know men are not supposed to say that about other men. In today’s society we disguise our homophobia by silently being suspicious of any close contact or admiration expressed between folks of the same gender.
But Kareem (who was also an Abdul) was a fabulous basketball player. He did something called the “sky-hook,” which was really just a huge toss of the basketball high in the air over his head, which for the normal person would have had about a 3.3% chance of sinking the hole, but for him was in the high 60’s.
But he sealed his immortality in my soul when he appeared in the movie Airplane as the humongously over-sized pilot who was hiding out from his real occupation, pretending he was NOT a famous athlete. I remember watching the movie, thinking how brave it was for him to step off the court into this new arena of acting, realizing that he would be a huge target for criticism, but took the risk anyway.
Yes, Abdul going into the movie industry was like the ultimate sky-hook. He just tossed it off, over his head, high into the air, confident that it would split the cords. He played with great players and still looked great. That’s pretty remarkable.
Most of us choose to hang around inferiors so that our work will appear to be stellar. Not Mr. K. A. J. He shared the glory with his teammates, but when their expertise failed to pull off the miracle of the win, he took his seven-foot-plus frame, and leaped in to save the day.
You know what else is interesting? He seems to be a really nice guy. I mean, it’s special when someone is humble because they decide to select humility–but upon careful gazing at their record, you are not surprised they have chosen that profile. But when somebody has set benchmarks in excellence, but still chooses simplicity and humility, it is a reminder that struggling to put oneself into the spotlight is an invitation to get bumped from the stage by someone on the A list.
I guess he’s a Muslim. If all Muslims were like Kareem, most of their public relations problems would be alleviated. So along about the same time that Cassius Clay became Mohammed Ali, Lou Alcindor became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Here’s the beauty: they didn’t turn into religious fanatics who blew up mosques.
They used their talents to become better people and create a more enjoyable world.