Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is regarded as one of the best players ever to play in the NBA.
In an interview with NBRPA (National Retired Players Association) writer Jon Teitel, Abdul-Jabbar recalled playing basketball in his youth and also reflected on some of his records that stood the test of time.
Former NBA star recalled how he first learned to shoot the now world-famous sky hook.
“When I was in the 5th grade our basketball coach Farrell Hopkins would have older kids from our parish (St. Jude’s) who were in either college or HS help him with coaching duties. 1 of those kids showed me the “Mikan Drill”, recalled Abdul-Jabbar. “To do this drill you station yourself in front of the basket and shoot the ball off the glass by alternately using your right and left hand. In this way, you can develop the use of both hands and the footwork you need to shoot the hook shot.”
He also recalled the famous 1968 game between the UCLA and Houston, which was the first-ever nationally-televised regular season college basketball game in front of over 50,000 fans at the Houston Astrodome in what has been called the “Game of the Century”.
“I was not able to practice with my team before we played Houston in 1968 because of my eye injury. I am sure that it affected my conditioning/shooting touch, as it was the only game I played at UCLA where I did not shoot at least 50% from the field. Beating Houston in the finals was very satisfying because we got to prove all of our critics wrong,” Abdul-Jabbar said.
The former NBA star did not go in details regarding his boycott of the 1968 Olympics, which, according to Jabbar, never took place. Abdul-Jabbar allegedly boycotted the Olympics that year to protest the unequal treatment of African-Americans in the United States.
“I do not have any regrets about missing the 1968 Olympics, but the supposed boycott did not take place,” he told NBRPA.
Speaking about winning the 1971 NBA title with the Milwaukee Bucks, Abdul-Jabbar said he was thrilled to win the championship.
“I had been a Muslim for 3 years at that point so it was an opportunity to go public with regard to my faith,” he added.
Regarding his accomplishments on the court besides winning 6 NBA titles, Abdul-Jabbar also mentioned his longevity.
“I feel that making 19 All-Star teams was a great achievement and a testimony to my longevity. It is impossible to say who was the best in NBA history, but I do feel that I have earned my way into that argument,” he said.
Abdul-Jabbar was selected 1st overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1969 NBA Draft. He 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.
Speaking of accomplishments, those of Abdul-Jabbar are not only limited to basketball. The seven foot star is also known to having trained with legendary Bruce Lee and even played his rival in the 1972 movie “Game of Death”.
“I think that “Airplane” was more demanding in terms of acting skills [than Game of Death],” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Working with Bruce was a direct result of having trained with him for 11 years.”
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