One of the greatest basketball player ever, Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke to SportsIllustrated regarding his youth, basketball fundamentals, importance of coaching and other things.
The 19-time NBA All-Star believes that despite that basketball has changed through the years, it’s still the same game.
“The whole idea is that it’s a team sport. You have to be able to react to what’s going on around you in the moment. What are your teammates doing? You have to understand team play,” Abdul-Jabbar said.
“Basketball is great in that sense because the team is just big enough. It’s five people. So it’s just big enough that you get to know each other. It’s not like football where you have two different squads and special teams. Basketball is just five guys, so it’s pretty intimate in the team concept that it promotes,” said Abdul-Jabbar.
Speaking of his younger years, former NBA star said he was very self-motivated.
“I realized pretty early – I was still in grade school when I realized that basketball could take you certain places, and I could go to college for free if I got a scholarship,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “That was a very definite goal for me. As my ability in the game increased, my ambition seemed to increase.”
When asked about the relationship between the coach and his players, Abdul-Jabbar said it was very important.
“Coaches, especially if you talk about the people who are coaching grade school and high school, they have a chance to help form individuals’ character through sports,” he said. “That’s a very important role to have in someone’s life.”
He noted that it is especially important in inner cities where there are a lot of one-parent families.
“Your coach takes on an even bigger significance in those kind of circumstances. Coaches can do a lot of good, but they can also do a lot of harm. We should be aware of that when we assess what coaching is all about,” he said.
Abdul-Jabbar was a record 19-time NBA All-Star, a 15-time All-NBA selection, and an 11-time NBA All-Defensive Team member.
In 1996, he was honored as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. Abdul-Jabbar played 1560 games in the NBA, averaging 24.6 ppg, 11.2 rpg in 36.8 mpg.
Abdul-Jabbar won six NBA championships, one with Milwaukee Bucks (1971), five with the LA Lakers (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988).
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