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Cypress College students impress basketball legend

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I had the opportunity to address the students and high school guests at Cypress College for Black History Month this afternoon. It is very important to get the message to them that their education is about the most important aspect of their young lives. I spoke to them about my own experiences as a high school student in New York in the '60s. I was involved in a program that sought to teach the kids of Harlem how to make it a better place. It was called the Harlem Youth Action Project, or Haryou-Act. The program consisted of various workshops in different areas. Music, dance, drama, photography, community organizing, art and journalism were all covered in the workshops. I was accepted into the journalism workshop under the mentorship of Mr. Al Calloway, who challenged us to produce a weekly journal about the Harlem community.

My experiences that summer changed my life in such an important way. Learning about what Harlem meant to the black community and how the Harlem Renaissance affected America gave me an ability to understand what I wanted to do with my life. Since then I have had a purpose and focus for my energy. I have published six books. Four of them were history books that tell part of the story of the black experience in America. The names of the books are "Black Profiles in Courage," "Brothers in Arms," "A Season on the Reservation" and "On the Shoulders of Giants." I hope these books continue to educate those who have  an interest in black history.

The young people at Cypress responded with excellent questions and were able to give me a good feeling about the potential of the next generation. I was impressed how interested the students seemed because one student approached me afterwards to tell me how she usually falls asleep during sessions like this.

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You also wrote a wonderful book, "Giant Steps" that you autographed for me in front of the Bruin bookstore when I was a student there, oh so long ago... Is it out of print?

I was lucky enough to attend UCLA during part of the miracle years of Bruin basketball. Those teams were always a class act. I'm not one to select "sports heroes". In my lifetime I've recognized three: Coach John Wooden who understood the importance of creating successful men, not just successful athletes; Vin Scully, who loved baseball, perfected his craft, and never stooped to being a "homer"; and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was the greatest basketball player of all-time but, more importantly, has shown that athletes can be intelligent, articulate, and involved in the world beyond sports.

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Captain Kareem

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is considered by many fans and sportswriters to be the greatest basketball player of all time. The 7-foot-2 Hall of Fame center, famous for his indefensible skyhook, dominated the NBA for 20 years, first with the Milwaukee Bucks then with the Los Angeles Lakers. Before that he was the star of the UCLA Bruins teams that won three consecutive NCAA championships. Kareem was the NBA's MVP six times, a 19-time all-star and set the NBA all-time records in nine categories. He is the NBA's all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points, a record that may never be broken.

Since retiring as a player in 1989, Kareem has balanced his love of basketball with his love of history. In 2002 he led a USBL team, the Oklahoma Storm, to a championship. Since 2005, he has been the special assistant coach for the Lakers, working with Andrew Bynum.

In 2008 he was chosen The Greatest Player in College Basketball History.

Kareem also remains intellectually active, authoring six bestselling history books intended to popularize the contributions of African-Americans to American culture and history. His books include "Black Profiles in Courage: A Legacy of African-American Achievement"; "Brothers in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, WWII's Forgotten Heroes"; "A Season on the Reservation," which chronicles his time teaching basketball and history on an Apache Indian reservation in White River, Ariz.; and the current New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller, "On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance."

His audio adaptation, "On the Shoulders of Giants: My Audio & Musical Journey through the Harlem Renaissance," is a four-volume compilation read by Bob Costas, Avery Brooks, Jesse L. Martin, and Stanley Crouch, and features private and fascinating conversations with dozens of icons, including Coach John Wooden, Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Angelou, Quincy Jones and Billy Crystal. He has also been written to L.A. Times, under the Sports section.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been appearing on various radio stations and TV shows, as well as the most relevant websites talking about his life and his new audio book, On the Shoulders of Giants.

All images are property of www.iconomy.com unless otherwise stated. All info copyrighted and owned by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is not replicated without permission.

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Mr. Abdul-Jabbar is the 2008 Honorary Chair Library Card Sign-up Month, which takes place in September. He will also appear at the American Library’s National Convention on June 28th and 29th at the Long Beach Convention Center to sign his poster.

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ESPN names Kareem The Greatest Player In College Basketball History

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