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Common myths about me: Why was Kareem so mad?

Kareemadbuljabbar_magic (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson) Photo Credit: Malek Mansour

    Which of the following is not true:

    A. You can catch a cold from going outside with your hair wet.
    B. You have to drink eight glasses of water a day.
    C. Candy makes kids hyperactive.
    D. Reading in dim light will ruin your eyesight.

The answer: none are true. A cold is caused by a virus and studies show that those who are exposed to the virus become infected whether or not they are chilled. Most people get plenty of water simply through their normal diet. Experts agree that there is no evidence that feeding children a high-sugar diet causes any hyperactivity. Reading in dim light may temporarily tire your eyes, but otherwise has no permanent effect.

Most celebrities know that this same kind of misinformation can be circulated about them simply because the more outrageous the claim, the more people will want to read it. I’ve been subjected to some of those claims, some outrageous, some merely annoying. And, like the myths I presented above about colds, water, candy, and reading, they persist even though there’s no truth to them. One of the common myths about me was repeated last week when a friend of mine was playing in his weekly basketball league and a teammate asked him, “Why was Kareem always so angry?” That’s not the first time I heard this charge. What’s weird about it is that every morning when I get out of bed, bluebirds, squirrels, and deer help me get dressed while we sing “We Are the World.” By the way, squirrels really suck at tying shoes. And deer often mumble the lyrics.

Even that doesn’t make me angry.

What’s interesting about the question is that the person who asked the question is white. In fact, no black person has ever asked that question. That’s because they already know the answer. In the 1960s and 1970s, when the civil rights movement was at its most intense and volatile level, I often used my celebrity to speak out against certain injustices. This seemed to irritate some people who expected black athletes to simply be silently grateful for their opportunities and not rock the boat. However, being given this tremendous opportunity to play college basketball at UCLA, how could I not speak out to help the many other black athletes who were not being given the same opportunity? To not stand up for integration of college athletics would be to dishonor the brave heroes who spoke out and made my opportunities possible. People like Bill Garrett (who is sometimes called the Jackie Robinson of college basketball), Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, and dozens of others. How could I not be angry to realize that many great players were being denied a college education and/or the chance to play before larger crowds( and therefore be more valuable if they chose to turn professional)? They were being denied a future.

The integration of college sports would have happened without me. But I like to think that I made some small contribution by adding my voice to those who fought to make this a better world. For some, my voice may have seemed shrill or angry; but for those on the right side of the issue, it seemed loyal and compassionate.

How do I feel now? Grateful that we’ve come so far. Encouraged that so many people are still adding their voices to the fight for equality for all people. In other words, I feel happy. Just ask the bluebirds.

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Comments

My wife and I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Mr. Abdul-Jabbar a couple of weeks ago before the final UCLA regular season game, and I can only imagine what "celebrity" has meant for him in his life. I have the utmost respect for Mr. Abdul-Jabbar and admire what he has done (and continues to do) for the global community. Please keep up the good work, and know that I'll never forget shaking your hand and the inspiration your "Hi" has provided. You're a good man, and the world needs as many good people as possible. Thank you.

Re: Perception v. reality:

Race clearly had a lot to do with it. Also, I think in your case, a lot of people just weren't expecting a deliberately thoughtful superstar. I think other bright athletes and entertainers channeled their energy into being consistently upbeat or just harmlessly offbeat; I must think that, especially back then, you were the only one who was comfortable in downbeat critical thought. I think a lot of people were glad your voice was there. I know I was.

Even though you (unfairly) got labeled as aloof, I think were the rare kind of superstar athlete to whom bookish and socially late-blooming kids could relate in the early 80's. I mean, I knew I wasn't cool like Doc or Iceman, or the natural leader like Magic or Larry, but I could draw inspiration from your quiet intensity, your preference for ideas to personalities, your commitment to the craftsmanship of your game, and the nonchalant yet uncompromising way in which you were at ease being an outsider.

Oh, and nice work on Colbert, by the way!

Hello Sunshine!

I attended a program last Saturday and I can attest to the new (?) "Happy Kareem." At least you seemed very confident and at peace as you spoke about your new book and about yourself.

Is there not a season for everything? Especially Angry Young Men? I think it took that for the American Revolution, the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement - Father to all subsequent angers.

Now a new generation will put their pent up emotions on the line, and to the test. This seems natural to me.

Besides, women love men of Great Passions.

Now you and all the other former angry young men can take your next place as MASTERS - where you belong. As I read the blogs that you write and the responses that they generate, I am reminded how I felt when I read "On the Shoulders of Giants." I realized that you transcended my mind's black dot and taught me not only information and knowledge, but how to RETHINK a mindset that I held for 40 years. (But that's another story)

I am so thankful that you are a happy, teaching, giving man.
Bless you.

Kareem, thank you for your blog and the opportunity to say thank you... I remeber growing up in LA watching you play at UCLA, and yes the time were intense and volatile level.. I just had one question...Do you ever talk to `Angela Davis' and what is she up to now a days..

Keep up the good work.

You never struck me as angry. On the other hand, I definitely got the impression at times that you were impatient with the dumb questions of sportswriters. And who wouldn't be?

Keep up the good blogging.

Hi, Kareem -- As you know, my friend Mark Mittelberg and I have had a couple of opportunities to get together with you socially, including the time you visited our house for dinner. I've never found you to be an angry person. Shy? Yeah, I think so. Some people might misinterpret your shyness for something else. Thoughtful? Absolutely. I fondly remember our discussions about religion. We disagreed about many things, but I certainly respect your intellect, integrity, and honesty. My wife Leslie and I wish you continued success as you help the Lakers win another championship! -- Lee Strobel

Kareem:

In following your career ever since I can remember, I too have heard the charge that you're angry and aloof. I refused to believe it to be honest. Even when I had the chance to meet you at the LA Times Book Festival I didn't feel that, even though I was so starstruck that I could barely stammer out a greeting. I have met many athletes over the years being a sports fan, and somewhat of an autograph hound, and though I'm always respectful when speaking to an athlete, I've neer been starstruck before.

Because you're Kareem.

You're not like every other athlete. You represent the pinnacle of achievement in your chosen sport and your scholarly field. You were my late father's hero, and you are mine as well. I feel fortunate to be old enough to have seen you play for the Lakers, and had a wonderful father who would recount your exploits at UCLA which occurred just before I was born.

"AIRPLANE!" Is one of my all-time favorite movies, and yes it's because you were in it. Like many legions of your fans, I can quote your lines verbatim.

Your appearance on Colbert last night had me in stitches. I especially loved the way you dribbled off the set. I bet you could still play in the NBA and teach these younger guys how to sky-hook.

Which BTW - what do you think of Lorenzo Mata-Real's skyhook?

I'm a child of the 70's and I practically grew up on campus at UCLA. I was in the second class at the UCLA ChildCare Center, my mom worked on Campus from 1974 to 1980, and my dad graduated with a degree in English in 1974. I never wanted to go to college anywhere else. UCLA and the great basketball teams of the "Wooden Era" are etch in my personal shared mythology, and at the pantheon of the pyramid sits one Lew Alcindor, now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

If you were or are angry, you certainly have every right to be angry. And let the world hear you roar.

Thanks.

What! Kareem angry? Didn't you see the movie Airplane? What a sense of humor? "My name is Roger Murdoch, I'm an airline pilot..." Kareem For President!

"The foolish, when silent, may seem to be wise."

- Ancient Proverb

I always thought of Kareem as a quiet, sensitive, thoughtful person. To read him as angry never made sense to me. In fact, to reason otherwise, would be correct.

People expressed their anger during the Civil Rights movement by being demonstrative. But remember, even God would show his anger when something wasn't right. Its called rightious indignation.

Nothing wrong with that. Unless you were one of those who thought segregation was right.

Kareem, we really gotta trade deer! My morning get-dressed song is ZZ Top's La Grange, and the deer ain't cutting it.

Kareem,
I've had the pleasure of meeting you twice, a few years ago at a book signing at Border's in Westwood, and two weeks ago at a Laker game (you were kind to be in a picture with me). It was an honor to meet a legend who I idolized growing up in the Showtime Era. I will never forget the emotional day you played your last game in Game 4 of 1989 NBA Finals (the year we should've won Threepeat). What impressed me was your character and grace and how nobody cared that the Lakers got swept in the Finals, but instead, we were all chanting "Kareem Kareem Kareem." Forget the basketball stuff and the fact that you ARE the best center to ever play the game, but what impresses me is your intelligence and what you stand for. Keep up the good work Cap and like we used to say, "Jam it Jabbar!"

Hey Kareem, mom told me you have a blog now. Good stuff. You write really well. Hope to see you again soon. Love, Rebecca

I too had the pleasure of hearing you speak last week at CAAM. Growing up, you and the Lakers were always my heroes, and now as a history teacher, your books and words are inspiring! I look forward to reading your blogs and I hope to inspire others as a history teacher just like you.

La Lucha Continua!

Kareem,

I am one of your fans and I'm not black or white.

It is not a myth when people though of you as an angry person. Perhaps, they were snubbed by you when they approached you for autograph, took your pictures during privacy strolling along the mall. You never got a fair deal from reporters because you never aired your side except now.

I consider you a hero during Civil Rights integration like Martin Luther King as the supreme symbol followed by you, Olympians Smith and Carlos, Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, you were in the forefront of fame to protest the racial injustice. I know you are an Obama admirer but I would not even consider a true black hero because he was not headlines at the time of the struggle, now he's claiming the glory as Presidential candidate.

Many poster in the Lakers Blog are your fans. However, they are afraid to post in your blog because they don't get answers to their queries. Perhaps, you can ask AK or BK the success of their blog, they never ignore any remarks or any posts. The publish it and answer it. I hope you will also publish other negative posts against you like this one: "Kareem is always angry." That will bridge the gap of the black and white issues.

Not to split hairs, but isn't it a contradiction to label the statement "Why is Kareem always so angry" a myth when you then you go on to explain why you were so angry? It seems like your explanation is more, "yeah I was angry and there was a good reason."

Personally I've never thought of you as an angry person. My impression from watching you over the years is that you're intelligent, thoughtful and maybe a little ill at ease with the public spotlight.

(Incidentally, anyone who hasn't seen the excellent HBO documentary "UCLA Dynasty" should make a point of seeing it. It puts a lot of what Kareem was going through at UCLA in context)

Nice work on the blog. (And Andrew Bynum!)

Racial stereotypes are persistent in society...then as now. Too many folks simply cannot understand that still waters run deep. The fact that a person is a widely known public figure does not make him/her public property. Finding a Black man in America who is not mindful and angry about societal injustice is as difficult as counting all the grains of sand on a beach. Kareem, I respect you to the utmost because you've always been for real and have always conducted yourself with dignity.

Mr. Abdul-Jabbar,

I was wondering if you watched "Black Magic" on ESPN and what your thoughts were on it.

Thanks.

It's amazing, but it seems like African Americans aren't allowed to have normal feelings. Whether you're in the job situation, an athlete or an entertainer. Everyone seems to think that you're the 20th/21st Century version of Nat Turner, about to spark a revolt if they don't see your pearly whites every day.

Kareem,
How do you feel about modern universities becoming little more than minor leagues for the NBA? Also, when you were in college, most members of the teams were white. Now they are mostly black. Why do you think that is so?

I remember when you played for the Bucks and came out to play against the Lakers...the crowd booed you when you were introduced and you came out with a big grin on your face....you knew those boos were the sign of respect and ultimate flattery and only a few athletes achieve that level of admiiration. Once you played for the Lakers you never those again from the home team!!

kareem,
Your observations remind me of an elderly gentleman who fell to the floor of a health food store in Carson City, Nevada a couple of years ago when I was shopping for bargains. We struck up a sports conversation because i was wearing an Arizona sports t-shirt in honor of the women's softball team who would win back to back National Championships that year. He didn't want to talk about women's sports but did want to speak about professional baseball. He immediately asserted that due to the use of steroids that was brewing in professional baseball that Babe Ruth is still the all-time home run champ. "Jackie Robinson did not want to play in the white leagues because he felt more compfortable playing around his own people", flew out of his mouth next. I explained to him that both of my sons at one time or another wrote papers in school about Jackie Robinson's integration into the major leagues. He stuck with his position but listened attentively. I don't know how he came to his conclusion but I do know, he believed it from the bottom of his heart. I was not angry but disheartened that his comments may be universal among elderly old white men.

It's the scowl.

Some people (MJ, Magic) when concentrating at crunch time look intense - others (Kareem, and especially Robert Parish) look angry. An attempt to stay even-keel through a long season may come off as angry, just from a default facial expression.

l.a. guy- he never said he was angry, he said he was perceived that way because he spoke out against injustice.

I love this picture!

Never seen such a one sided comment. Kareem is lucky and I feel happy to have come across someone who is admired by the entire cross section of the society. Great to know Kareem is Kareem, Kareem, Kareem .....

Wish all the well wishers of Kareem the best.

why are only positive comments allowed on this site?

ridic

Your talent on the basketball court is surpassed by your intelligence and class two things that are in short supply today.

Check out the book: "Getting Open" on Bill Garrett. It's a great book for those interested in this subject.

Really good blog post. Very humble. This is a million times better than Gilbert Arenas self promoting blog.

Hey Kareem.
For as long as I could remember, you have been a hero and inspirational figure to me. I love the game of basketball mostly because of you. I can no longer participate in the school basketball team because of a heart murmur but I still continue to play with my friends and family because of your influence in me and the game. For years, I have wanted to buy one of your Lakers jerseys but they have all been very, very expensive and well... i just don't have that much money to buy them (even a Kobe Bryant Jersey has been too expensive for me). I'm a little embarrassed to ask you this but I'll ask you anyway. Would you consider sending me one of your Lakers jersey? It's just that I have you're my hero and your achievements have been a driving force for me to continuing to play basketball. If you won't, it would matter because I still had a chance to communicate with my favorite player of all time.
Thanks for your time.

Your fan,
Anderson

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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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