The legendary athlete and Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is still the only athlete to be named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player three times. As a professional, he led first the Milwaukee Bucks and then the Los Angeles Lakers to six championships. After 20 seasons, he retired with nine NBA records, many of which still hold. His scoring record of 38,387 career points (24.6 on average per game) will probably never be equaled.
After retiring from active play, he studied with martial arts master Bruce Lee, making his motion-picture debut alongside Lee in the film “Game of Death.” He also made a memorable appearance in the comedy classic “Airplane.”
Today, much of his time has been devoted to writing. His first book, an autobiography, was titled Giant Steps, after a tune by one of Abdul-Jabbar’s heroes, jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. A second memoir, Kareem, is an account of his last season, interspersed with memories of childhood and reflections on his life in basketball. He recounts his most interesting coaching experience as a volunteer at Alchesay High School on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in A Season on the Reservation. Subsequent books include Black Profiles in Courage: A Legacy of African American Achievement and Brothers in Arms, the story of the all-black 761st Tank Battalion in World War II. His latest, On the Shoulders of Giants — an examination of the poets, artists, musicians, athletes and activists of the Harlem Renaissance, informed by his own experience growing up in Harlem — has been made into a documentary featuring interviews with Maya Angelou and Bill Russell, as well as music by Wynton Marsalis. For more information, go to kareemabduljabbar?.com/film.