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April 29, 2008

Lakers take round One


Lakers have taken a step forward in beating the Denver Nuggets in round one of the Western Conference playoffs. The ability to eliminate the Nuggets - 50 game winners this season - was a major indication of their improvement this year. First round exits in 07 and 06 were very disappointing for the Laker faithful. Expectations can only grow if the Lakers continue to win in this fashion.

The most obvious improvement for the Lakers has been their ability to share the ball. The high ratio of assists to baskets in always a sign that the team is in sync and eager to help each other. Denver, for its part, has not done well in the team aspects of the game. They haven't worked the ball into positions for easy shots and they've settled for the quick long range jump shot. Those shots aren't falling and the Lakers advanced because of it.

Denvers seems to have resorted to one on one play as a response to the challenges they faced and things did not work out for them. Carmelo Anthony was particularly unable to contribute for the Nuggets. JR Smith and Allen Iverson gave it the college try but the Lakers had an answer to every effort the Nuggets made. Kobe Bryant was spectacular at crunch time and he singlehandedly held off the Nuggets in the final minutes of the game, his presence alone was the decisive factor in those moments.

For the first time in my memory, I saw Kobe struggle at the free throw line. But that was no consolation for the Nuggets. They were unable to take advantage of any openings. I'm sure the next round of the playoffs will be more competitive but I think the Lakers are on a roll.

(photo credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

April 28, 2008

Answering my fan mail

Regarding Horton Hears a Racist....
I have enjoyed the various responses to my blog on “Horton Hears a Racist”. I didn’t seek to try to pin a ‘racist’ label on the makers but I just don’t think that they thought about the whole effect of the story on young minds. We need to promote the worth of all of our children and seek to have them all, boys & girls, achieve all that they can. Dr. Seuss’ original text was not focused in the way the movie is. The additional sub plot, in my view, clearly points to girls as being less capable and less valuable than boys.

My 61st Birthday...
I survived my birthday without having any traumatic events transpire. Herbie Hancock and Smokey Bill Robinson played Happy Birthday for me. It was a great night. I'm gonna post some of my birthday party pictures later so stay tuned. Thanks to one and all for your birthday wishes, it was very much appreciated.

Answering a couple of fans...
To Charles from Hong Kong, stretching and cardio work well keep you where you want to be as far as maintenance. To keep the pounds off remember to check your positions when you sit at the table.
Rasbad and Rocky. You guys need to do something everyday to maintain your conditioning. Cardio and stretching are the best.

Nina Simone...
I met Nina Simone one time only.  But Nina was always true to her ideals. I was impressed totally by her integrity and sense of humor. The music she left us well endures. Enjoy. K.

Celebrity READ poster series

Kareem_ala The American Library Association (ALA) is pleased to announce that  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has joined the popular Celebrity READ poster series. The Celebrity READ poster campaign is one of the most effective ways to encourage people to get a good education, improve their reading skills, and to read for sheer enjoyment. The ALA has been fortunate to have the support of many actors, athletes, artists, and musicians who support the campaign to increase public awareness of the importance and pleasure of reading. Mr. Abdul-Jabbar joins other notable stars like Orlando Bloom, Salma Hayek, Corbin Bleu, Tony Hawk, Serena Williams, Rachael Ray, Yo-Yo Ma, and many others. 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.

To purchase Mr. Abdul-Jabbar's  poster and to view the entire line of Celebrity READ Posters, please click here. 

April 24, 2008

Denver vs. Lakers Playoffs - Then and Now


Any seven game series is a match up of adjustments. Each team needs to find weak spots to use to attack their opponent. And each team needs to fix problems in its own offensive game plan and defensive schemes. In last nights game the Nuggets were more patient when they had the ball and didn’t go with the quick jump shot. The Lakers were more patient with their offense and got their shots from areas that were not available to them in game one.

Denver played a zone much of the time and that limited the effectiveness of Pau Gasol. But Pau got enough done to hold down his job. The effective shooting of Kobe Bryant was the key factor that was crucial to the Lakers success. I’ve heard Charles Barkley describe Kobe as a “fast car” when you need to get somewhere in a hurry. He was all of that in this game. He shot 18 for 27 from the field, including 5 of 9 three pointers. Pau and Luke Walton provided offensive support scoring 18 points apiece. Denver was successful for awhile by crashing the offensive boards for second shots and out re-bounded the Lakers 45 to 41.

The Lakers passing is still a dominant factor in this match up and again they shared the ball for 33 assists (a great Lakers number!). The only disappointment for the Lakers was the ineffective play of Lamar Odom who scored only four points with four rebounds and six assists. But Lamar won’t be down for long. You can expect him to come back strong in the following game. The Lakers will have their work cut out for them in Denver and this series could be a long one, but I think Kobe will be the decisive factor. Today’s Nuggets run and gun also, but they will need to slow the Lakers with effective defense. Marcus Camby is an effective shot blocker but hasn’t been a dominant force in the paint on a regular basis. Pau Gasol is a real problem for the Nuggets to contend with if they want to focus their defense on stopping Kobe. Needless to say, I think this will be an interesting series.

I remember back in ’79 when the Lakers beat the Nuggets 2 to 1 against the team led by David Thompson. Anytime a professional team must play in Denver there must be an allowance made for the altitude which in Denver is over 5,000 feet. That has a major impact on the stamina of teams that train at sea level. It takes a week or so to acclimate to the additional altitude, which has a dramatic effect on an athlete’s heart and lungs. This is a serious home court advantage and it has led to some major misjudgments by anyone trying to assess the Nuggets chances. But, Denver has had some great athletes compete for them. Thompson, Fat Lever, Alex English, Calvin Natt and Dan Issell come to mind. And of course three point threat Michael Adams. In those days Denver played an up-tempo game to take advantage of their quick mobile shooters who would score score score. I remember a scoring title race one year when David Thompson and George Gervin vied for the scoring title to the last game of the regular season. David scored 60 something if I remember correctly to take the lead. George Gervin then scored 75 or so to clinch the title later the same day. I am looking forward to see which players emerge as this generations leaders.

(Photo credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

April 23, 2008

ESPN Radio interview


I would like to share with you this interview I did  with 710 ESPN Radio, from yesterday. We talked about the Lakers, this Play-Off season, Bill Walton and my skyhook throw at the Dodgers Stadium, among other topics.  Your comments are very welcome, as usual.

Click here to listen.

April 22, 2008

Jazz Review: Nina Simone’s Protest Anthology

Kareem_nina_simone2_3     Jazz singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone once said, “An artist’s duty is to reflect the times.” Nothing reflects the turmoil of Nina’s times or her commitment to improving those times than her newly released album, Protest Anthology. This collection of eleven previously unreleased live recordings and interviews offers fervent fans and newcomers alike a glimpse behind the polished stage singer and into her raw heart of darkness regarding her hatred of racial and gender inequality. Yet, it also displays her versatility as a singer who could cross-pollinate genres creating hybrids of unequaled grace and power. Jazz, blues, soul, folk, gospel—Nina wore all those labels with pride and disdain. Pride in her success in such a variety and disdain for being labeled at all.

    Protest Anthology features some potent songs that reflect her days performing and speaking at civil rights marches throughout the 1960s. In fact, it’s practically a chronology of many of the major civil rights milestones of that time. Despite it’s sprightly tempo, “Mississippi Goddamn” (1964) addresses her horror at the 1963 murder of activist Medgar Evers and the bombing of the Birmingham church that killed four black girls. (The record was boycotted in several Southern states.) “Old Jim Crow,” released that same year attacks the Jim Crow laws that perpetuated segregation and hostility. Her cover of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” about lynching, is angrier and grittier than Billie’s eerie, more languid version. “Four Women,” written by Simone, laments the stereotypes of women of color. The simple melody played by the accompanying piano accents her increasing outrage as the song progresses. Her performance of “Why? (The King of Love Is Dead),” about the impact of Martin Luther King, Jr., is as heartfelt and touching as any song you will ever hear.

    Several of her standards are featured, including “Backlash Blues” (1967) by her friend Langston Hughes, and her adaptation (with Weldon Irvine) of her friend, Lorraine Hansberry’s play, “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.” This 1970 song had such an emotional impact that it became a civil rights anthem later covered by Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway, and even Elton John. Although her performance doesn’t have the polish of her earlier recording, it does convey her inner passion and frustration.

It’s a shame that this magnificent album appears five years after Nina’s death. On the other hand, as she herself says in one of the interviews in this collection,

“When I go, I’m going to know that I left something for [my people] to build on. That is my reward.”

Fortunately, this is a reward we can all share.

(Album cover: Protest Anthology; Nina Simone)

April 21, 2008

My first Lakers playoff season


(Bill Walton trying to block me out, 1977)

My first season in the playoffs with the Lakers was 1977. That was an up-and-down year in all respects. Our regular season was very successful and we felt that we had a great chance to play in the Finals. All those hopes were lost when we had injuries to two key players: Lucius Allen and Kermit Washington. The Portland Trailblazers beat us in the conference finals and went on to win the world championship from the Philadelphia 76ers in six games.

This season is starting to look the same way. Injuries have had a dramatic impact on the team's chances. Andrew Bynum's emergence as a dominant NBA center was something that had Lakers fans relishing the playoff season but a knee injury to Drew has made it impossible for anyone to know when he will be coming back. The acquisition of Pau Gasol has also buoyed the hopes of the Lakers faithful. An ankle injury almost took out that dream, but Pau has recovered nicely and should be in good shape for the playoff season. Trevor Ariza has also been a player who has come to the forefront as a Laker this year. He is our best defensive player at three positions. But a stress fracture has sidelined Trevor and we are waiting patiently for his return.

At full strength, the Lakers are a formidable crew, but who knows when they will reach that status? I think the playoffs will hold that answer.

The Lakers opened up their post season last night beating the Denver Nuggets 128-114 in LA. The game was rather uneven but it featured fine passing, flagrant fouls and flaring tempers. The Lakers led at halftime by only two points, 58-56. It seemed that the two teams were evenly matched, but in the second half the Lakers pulled away and maintained a lead that Denver could not overcome. The game was especially meaningful for Pau Gasol, who experienced his first playoff win in his seven years in the NBA. His statistics were quite impressive: 36 points on 14 of 20 from the field and 8 for 8 from the free throw line,  16 rebounds, eight assists and three blocked shots. That’s the type of game that people talk about when they try to figure out who the elite players are. Lamar Odom was very crucial in making the plays that create opportunities for his teammates for easy shots. He finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds while only giving up one turnover. Everyone on the Lakers got into creating assists for their teammates, including Luke Walton, Vladimir Radmanovic and Pau.

Their total of 33 assists (a great Laker number!) was remarkable in this day of the quick jumper. The Nuggets had only 20. Things got ugly at times, especially when the Lakers had an easy shot attempt opportunity. J.R. Smith was called for a flagrant foul in the fourth quarter and Anthony Carter (1), Kenyon Martin (1) and Allen Iverson (2) were slapped with technicals. Iverson was ejected as a result of his two techs in quick succession. The crowd was very much into getting under the skin of whoever presented an opportunity. Carmelo Anthony was heckled on every free throw he shot with reminders of his DUI arrest. The Laker faithful are not inclined to be kind at this time of year, and I wonder what else they’ll come up with when given the opportunity. After the game, Coach Phil Jackson chided the Lakers about a few improvements they need to make but said that the victory was quite satisfactory. If things stay this intense, expect a lot more fireworks.

April 18, 2008

What's goin' on across this land?

    The following lyrics are from a song about a soldier returning from war who’s trying to catch up on what he’s missed while being overseas.

Hey, baby, what you know good?
I’m just gettin’ back, but you knew I would.
War is hell, when will it end?
When will people start gettin’ together again?
Are things really gettin’ better Like the newspaper said?…
Can’t find no work, can’t find no job, my friend.
Money is tighter than it’s ever been.
Hey, man, I just don’t understand What’s goin’ on across this land.

What makes those lyrics all the more poignant—and disturbing—is the fact that Marvin Gaye wrote them as part of his "What’s Goin’ On" album, which was released on May 21, 1971—37 years ago next month. Unfortunately, those same words, which were supposed to represent the Vietnam veteran, could be spoken by any young soldier returning from Iraq or Afghanistan today.

“War is hell, when will it end?” That’s what Americans have been asking ever since President Bush stood on the USS Abraham Lincoln in front of his victory banner that proclaimed “Mission Accomplished” on May 1, 2003—five years ago next month. Since that banner was hung, 3,898 Americans have been killed in Iraq.

“Can’t find no work, can’t find no job/Money is tighter than it’s ever been.” Unemployment has spiked in recent months, rising to a three-year high. Food and gas prices are at their highest. Many economists are finally admitting that we are indeed in an economic recession with no foreseeable end.

When it comes to politics, most people are smart enough to reach their own conclusions about candidates. You’d have to be crazy to vote for a candidate just because some celebrity endorses him or her. After all, what does fame in acting or accomplishment in sports have to do with knowledge in politics? Pretending to be a cop in a blockbuster movie or tossing a ball through a hoop doesn’t make you an expert on domestic or foreign policies.

Yet, here I am writing about politics.

My achievement in basketball provided me with the platform to reach you, but it’s my achievement as a historian that provides me with some small measure of expertise. I’ve been writing books as long as I played professional basketball, so I’m not writing here as Kareem the athlete, I’m writing to you as Kareem the historian.

The most important lesson I’ve learned from all my years reading and writing about history can be summed up by the famous statement attributed to American philosopher George Santayana: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” When I listen to Marvin Gaye singing those lyrics in “What’s Happening, Brother,” and I realize that here we are 27 years later wondering when the war will end and how we will keep our jobs and feed our families, I can’t help but look around for someone to lead us who has the ability to learn from history. To make sure we aren’t doomed to repeat our past mistakes.

For me, that person is Barack Obama. I believe that because his personal history has taught him so much. His parents came from modest means and knew the hardships of tough economic times. Barack learned from their struggles, which motivated him to move to Chicago to become a community organizer to help make the lives of people in poor neighborhoods better. Even after getting his law degree from Harvard, he continued to help people in need by practicing civil rights law. That, and everything he’s fought for as a state senator and U.S. senator, convince me that this is a man who will use his knowledge of and respect for history to lead us into a future that avoids the mistakes of our past. And that future promises to make all our our lives better.

April 17, 2008

Fit After Forty: Staying in the Game

(Andre, Armstead B. Line and Kareem, 1969.)

When I was a kid, you rarely saw men or women over 40 doing anything more physically competitive than racing to beat someone to a cab. Or seeing who could finish mowing their lawn first. Or power walking to the corner convenience store for a pack of cigarettes. Now gray is the new black—at least in the hair of athletes around the country.

And many of these middle-age athletes aren’t content to just work out alone listening to Bruce Springsteen sing about glory days on their iPods. They want to compete against other—often much younger—athletes. Softball leagues, pick-up basketball games, and soccer games are packed with enthusiastic parents and grandparents who have put in their time watching their children play sports. Now they’re back, baby, and ready to play like it’s 1999.

The problem is it’s 2008. And our over-40 athletes are a little slower, a little less flexible, a little more vulnerable to injuries. That great spin move to the basket that was your signature move in college is now blocked every time—by a kid younger than your own children. And when you’re standing open for a shot because your defender has sagged off to help guard a stronger player, your teammates still don’t pass you the ball.

Get used to that initial lack of respect, because when it comes to competing after 40, your past accomplishments, trophies and victories don’t matter. You have to earn respect all over again. In fact, you have to try harder because most younger players will take one look at your wrinkles and gray hair and immediately dismiss you as a liability. Fortunately, there are practical steps you can take to stay competitive in your sport, even against younger players. Check those steps below.

Step One: Hit the Weights.
    Once you’re over 40, you’re more prone to injuries, and those injuries take longer to heal. So, not only are you in pain, and maybe feeling a little humiliated sitting on the sidelines clutching your throbbing shoulder while the others continue playing, but you are in danger of allowing yourself to get out of shape while recuperating. Over-40 celebrities Adam Sandler (broke his ankle) and George Clooney (ruptured his Achilles' tendon) both suffered injuries playing basketball. Many injuries can be avoided through a regimen of exercises designed to strengthen core muscles (see my earlier blog on core exercises). Supplement the core exercises with weights that will build muscles to protect your body more. Be sure to focus on areas that may be weak from previous injuries, such as knees and shoulders.

Step Two: Out-Cardio Them.
    Over the years I have often witnessed players underestimate other players because of their appearance. And I’ve watched the cocky observer pay the price. If you want to be the one to make them pay, you need to have an ace in the hole that they don’t expect. The one thing younger players never expect is for the older player to have greater stamina. To be able to run around the court, and keep running, while others start to slow down and drop their defenses. Although the over-40 player may have lost some quickness and power that he will never get back, he still has the ability to increase stamina. Through an exercise program that stresses cardiovascular workouts (see my blog on cardio exercises), the over-40 athlete will soon be able to outlast those younger athletes who rely on their youth rather than workouts to maintain fitness. Yes, they may be able to outrun and outshoot you for the first couple games, but after that, you will see a definite slowing down. When that happens, you’ll start outrunning and outshooting them. Believe me, there are few greater rewards for the over-40 athlete than to be standing on the basketball court saying, “Come on, let’s play,” while younger players sit on the sidelines catching their breath.

Step Three: Specialize.
    When you were in your 20s or even t30s you might have been proud of your all-around game. You could dribble well, drive in and do a layup with either hand, maybe even surprise everyone with a hook shot. Or you could hit the long ball, throw the 40-yard pass, do a bicycle kick into the soccer goal. After 40, those days are either gone or soon will be. That doesn’t mean you can’t still be a competitive threat in your sport. But instead of working on all aspects of your game, you would do well to specialize in one or two aspects. For example, for the older player, that drive to the hoop can be dangerous: noses get broken, teeth get loosened, heads get elbowed. And since you’re not getting paid, is it really worth that kind of risk? Instead, start thinking about practicing your three-point shot, out where there are fewer bodies to harm you. Or work on the fake pass, followed by a quick eight-foot fadeaway. In racquetball, forget the power kill shot that rips your shoulder and work on the elegant pinch shot that has your younger opponent diving in the wrong direction. In volleyball, the big power spike looks good, but the short cut shot to the left or right gets you points and leaves the tall, young blocker looking foolish. If you can do one thing better than anyone else, you will more valuable to the team than the all-around player who does everything mediocre.

Getting older may take its toll on us physically, but the advantage of our age is that we are supposed to get smarter. By following these three steps, you will have outsmarted nature—for a while. At least long enough to keep yourself competitive so that when you show up to play, the regulars start clamoring to get you on their team.

(Photo credit: KAJ's Archive)

April 16, 2008

Thank you!

Kareem_rocks I'd like to thank all the well-wishers who reached out to wish me a happy birthday. It is different from those days when they went by with impunity. But in any event it's nice to know you guys care.
I've yet to figure out what beach to go to but we've found the Dragon Inn film I would like to see again. UCLA is going to screen it for me so watch my blog and I'll invite as many of you as I can to the screening. And last but not least, I've got a lead on the Continental Divide Trail ride I'd like to undertake thanks to all your help. Best wishes to Kim and Jameson in Playa.
Your K.

Horton hears a racist


(Michelle and Barack with daughters Malia and Sasha)

Barack Obama is my choice for president. I’ve already explained why in previous blogs. But if Obama isn’t elected, it would be hard to blame racism. Republicans aren’t going to vote for him, not because he’s black, but because, even worse, he’s a Democrat. And for the most part, Obama has garnered more popular support among white voters than any other candidate. If Obama is elected, I believe that through his leadership skills and intelligence he will usher in a dynamic new era of government by inclusion rather than secrecy. Like John F. Kennedy, Obama will inspire a younger generation and invigorate the older generation to take greater part in their government, society, and community.

But there are many obstacles this New Era will have to face. A sagging economy. War abroad. Faltering education.

And, worst of all, the movie Horton Hears a Who.

This isn’t a review of the movie, it’s a review of how Hollywood sometimes contributes to the divisiveness within the country. Ironically, Horton Hears a Who has done more damage to our society than the recent slate of politically motivated movies about the war in Iraq (Rendition, Stop-Loss, Lambs for Lions, Redacted, In the Valley of Elah, etc.) has done good. For one thing, more people saw Horton than saw all the other movies combined.

How can a beloved Dr. Seuss story do so much harm? Well, the original book by Dr. Seuss is just fine, a timeless tale that has been delighting children since it was first published in 1954. The story of the brave elephant that is willing to endure the harshest condemnation from his friends and community in order to protect those in need is a wonderful lesson for children.

But then along comes the movie. To make the story long enough for a full-length movie, a subplot was added about the mayor of Whoville who has 96 cheerful daughters and one brooding son. This is where things take a nasty turn. Basically, the mayor ignores his 96 daughters in order to groom his uninterested son to become mayor. Why doesn’t he groom one of his much more enthusiastic daughters? And, of course, it is the brooding son who, in the end, saves the entire world of Whoville. The daughters? They get to cheer from the sidelines. While it’s true that in the book a “very small shirker named Jo-Jo” does add his tiny voice to the din and thus saves Whoville, but that promotes the idea that we all have our part to play in our community, not that sons are smarter than daughters.

“Hey, it’s just a cartoon,” you might say. But this particular cartoon will be seen by millions of children around the world. And they will come away with a clear impression that a single son is worth more than 96 daughters. Those boys are inherently more valuable than girls, and more likely to be successful (in this case, in saving the world) than girls.

What’s especially insidious here isn’t just that the subplot was written and approved and filmed, but that since the movie has come out, there hasn’t been a popular outcry about it. That we don’t even ask why, in the years it took to make the movie, no one along the line said, “This isn’t a good message to send to our kids.” Is it because sexism is so ingrained in our society that we don’t even flinch at it when it’s shoved in our faces?

What’s all this have to do with racism?

Well, if our society is willing to tolerate any form of social injustice and discrimination toward any single group, then they have created a breeding ground for injustice throughout society. If we allow sexism, ageism, homophobia, religious intolerance, then racism can only flourish as well. We expose our impressionable children to funny cartoons about wacky animals voiced by famous actors and what do we think is going to happen. Will a little girl step out of Horton feeling empowered and motivated, or just slightly less capable than the little boy walking beside her?

I don’t think the filmmakers are evil or that they deliberately set out to send this awful message. Somehow it seems worse that they didn’t notice.

Maybe after eight years of Barak Obama’s presidency, our society will have evolved to a place where the filmmakers and the audiences won’t tolerate even the subtlest forms of discrimination. At least with Barak Obama, we have hope that such a world might be.

(Photo credit: Barack Obama)

April 15, 2008

My birthday wishes

(Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Muhammad Ali)

I've come to that time of the year again. Tomorrow, Wednesday the 16th, I turn 61. My manager Deborah Morales asked me to name three wishes for this year's event. I'm trying to keep it simple, so here it goes.

  1. I would like a quiet tropical vacation. Beach access is a must.
  2. I would like to see a favorite Martial Arts film, Dragon Inn, which has not been seen since the early '70s. (UCLA Films Archive.)
  3. I'd like to do a trail ride on the Colorado Continental Divide trail for a few days. It's a beautiful trail that runs the length of the state of Colorado.

>> Please send a detailed note to Kareem's manager if you can help make his birthday wishes come true: click here.

April 14, 2008

My interview with Carole King

I was treated to some fine singing while doing a skit for "The Colbert Report." None other than Carole King was the lady at the piano, and it was a treat to hear her perform some tunes from her venerable songbook. "Tapestry" was album of the year in 1971 and was awarded three other Grammys that same year. “You’ve Got a Friend” was song of the year.

I was immediately struck by the fact that the years have accumulated so quickly. It really did not seem like 37 years have passed by with such speed, but here we are.  After the show I got a chance to talk to Carole for a few minutes and had a fun time strolling down memory lane; back when I got traded to the Lakers from Milwaukee, I had the pleasure of sharing dinner with Carole and some mutual friends.

Carole has moved from Southern California to Idaho but still has an intense passion for the issues that she supports. She was very pleased to see how Herbie Hancock’s disc "River" was album of the year this year at the Grammys. We both agreed that Herbie had escaped a “label dungeon” that sometime limits a recording's reach because of the way it is labeled and marketed. We both hope a day will come when no label can interfere with a recording's success.

Carole King's website.

April 11, 2008

Elections 2008, who is your choice?

I have been answering questions for a long time, and I think it is time to ask you one:

"Who would you vote for president? As you all know Obama is my choice for president for all the reasons mentioned in my past posts. Now, what is your choice? Who will have the privilege to receive your vote?"

Me, digital?!

Iphone_kareem I am in the center of a campaign for the iPhone. It’s at the end of an odyssey for me, since I have come into the digital age drip by drip.  I was one of those parents who watched as my children became computer savvy and comfortable with a new technology that has changed the way people communicate. I will have to take some lessons for a while, but the potential of the computer is almost beyond description. I’ll be working with a tutor in order to catch up with the computer-savvy crowd.

My kids tell me there is nothing to be afraid of and that I’ll get it “in no time.” I truly hope so!

As a music and film fan I’m looking forward to downloading films and discs of interest and I’m already aware of the Internet as an awesome research device. Mainly I’m looking forward to exploring the Internet where there is so much to experience. All of my friends have mentioned the huge new world that one encounters when they have their first experience in the Internet landscape. I can’t wait!

Click here to see the iPhone commercial.

April 10, 2008

The weight of your world: How proper eating can help you lose it

(Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)

Certain things are inevitable.  Death and taxes, of course.  A famous athlete will indignantly deny using steroids, then get caught.  An A-list actor will go on all the talk shows and brag about how proud he is of his new movie—and it will suck.  Reality shows will multiply like randy rabbits.  A politician will be caught up in a sex scandal, and his wife will stand stoically beside him as he publicly confesses all.  Nothing can stop these things from happening.

Same goes for weight gain after 40.

Studies show that after men turn 40, even if you are a devout athlete working out every day, your waistline is fighting to expand.  After you turn 50, the fight turns into all-out war: muscles start to lose mass and the waistline starts demanding larger pants.  This expansion is usually due to increased abdominal fat, which is linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease.  For women, the waistline can predict cardiovascular disease and cancer.  A medical study released this week (and reported in the April 8th Los Angeles Times) concluded that women with waists 35 inches or greater had a 79% higher chance of premature death than women whose waists were 28 inches or less—even if the women were within the “normal” weight range.

The problem with relying just on exercise to combat this gain is it doesn’t work.  A study of nearly 5,000 runners between the ages of 18 and 50 showed that they gained weight at about the same rate no matter how many miles each person ran per week.  While adding 20  minutes on your treadmill time or another set to your weight-lifting routine may keep the muscles trim, for most people, the invading army of fat will continue to gain ground.

However, when you combine a nutritionally balanced diet with exercise, you have a much greater chance of sending fat on a hasty retreat.  That’s why I’m very serious about what I put into my body.  Also, I know that because most people’s heads come up to my waist, they’re staring right at my gut, so every extra inch looks even bigger to them.

OK, so let’s get you eating healthier.

What to Eat
    Remember, your best chance of defeating fat is by combining nutrition with exercise, so the combination of foods I’m recommending is for someone who works out regularly.  This will help fuel your workout and maintain weight control.

  • Carbohydrates.  You’ll need them.  Despite what trendy diets suggest, most athletes eat carbs.  But the trick is in picking the right ones.  Eat multi-grain breads, whole wheat pastas, basmati or brown rice, oatmeal, fruit (fresh, canned, or cooked), sweet potatoes, and new white potatoes.
  • Protein.  This helps your muscles grow.  Also, it fills you up so you’re less likely to overeat or hunt down a Twinkie soon after your meal.  If you’re exercising regularly, you’ll need to eat 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight.  For best results, you should have a protein-rich meal or snack within 90 minutes after your workout.  When selecting your protein source, the key is the keep it as low in fat as possible.  For meats, make sure it’s always a lean cut (and avoid gravies and sauces).  Almonds, peanuts, and cashews are a great source of protein.  So are yogurt, cottage cheese, salmon, chicken breasts, turkey, eggs, milk and tuna.
  • Healthy Fats.  We’ve been programmed to flinch at the word “fats,” but some fats are necessary for a nutritional diet.  The fats found in olive oil, avocado, salmon and nuts is good for you.  However, even though it has the word “healthy” in front of it, you still need to use them moderately.  They are high in calories, so you should limit your daily calorie intake from fats to 20%.

It’s Not Just About Weight Loss
    Don’t worry about losing weight right away.  First, focus on improving your diet, which will make your body stronger and give you more energy.  Then, if losing weight is part of your goal, shoot for a modest but doable one pound per week.  To lose one pound, you’ll have to exert 3,500 more calories than you take in.  This can be achieved by spending 500 more calories a day more than you consume.  The best way to accomplish this is through a combination of diet and exercise: eat 250 calories less each day, and burn off 250 calories more.

Take It Easy
    Don’t make too many radical changes at once.  That shock to your usual routine sets you up for failure.  This is about slowly changing habits.  Each week, replace something that you regularly eat that isn’t healthy with something that is.  The apple instead of the potato chips; the almonds instead of the donut.  The same advice holds for exercise.  Each week add one more set to your weight routine, one more minute to jumping rope or aerobics.

    Within a short time, you will be in control of your health.  As we get older, our bodies may conspire against us, but we didn’t get to this age without learning a few tricks along the way.  Your brain controls your body; don’t let it forget who’s boss.

April 08, 2008

A mystery lesson

Kareem_obstfeld I love mysteries.  I’m a huge fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories, as well as hard-boiled writers like Chester Himes, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett.  Desperate criminals chased down mean streets by world-weary detectives, now that’s entertainment.  That’s why I’m especially excited that Raymond Obstfeld, my friend and co-writer of "On the Shoulders of Giants," has just published a suspense thriller that’s set in Southern California.  This book is the first in a series about Stevie Croft, an assistant district attorney with a remarkable ability: she possesses hyper-memory, the uncanny ability to remember everything she’s ever seen or heard or read.  As she discovers, the ability is more of a burden than a blessing.  She’s kept this ability a secret, until a clever and demented serial killer threatens to reveal it. Unless she uses her power to catch him.  The problem is, Stevie’s hyper-memory is starting to fail, and in her pursuit of the killer, other dark family secrets are exposed.  Great concept for a movie or television series!

Because Raymond and I are friends, I don’t think it’s appropriate that I review the book, but I will quote Shirley Johnson, the reviewer from MidWest Book Review:

"I have to tell you I absolutely loved this book.  The characters were so well developed that I thought of them as people I had known all my life. The story took me down alleys, into close spaces, and had me racing for my life just like the characters in the book. Talk about drawing a person into the action, this book certainly does that. I was caught up in their traumas, their emotions, and every aspect of their lives.  Good job! The kicker here, however, is the conclusion.  I was shocked, beyond shock.  I would have never guessed what was coming in a million years, and I'm pretty good at figuring mysteries out.  What a twist!"         

All I can say is hold onto your hat when you're reading this book.  It's going to have you speeding down the road at a one fast clip.  You will not be bored, that much I guarantee, as your mind  is racing trying to figure out the next move of the killer, what is going on in Stevie's personal life, and how all the other characters are involved. I don't know when I have enjoyed reading a book as much as I have this one.

Exceptional! Highly recommended!!

April 07, 2008

Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters: Smooth sailing


It’s easy to dislike Herbie Hancock.  The man is 67 and looks 40!  (Someone needs to check his attic for that hidden Dorian Gray portrait.)  But then you listen to his music and you are immersed in a variety of emotions—love, melancholy, desire, thoughtful introspection—but none of them are alike.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.  You experience such a broad spectrum of emotion that you feel even more connected to other people, as if you can suddenly fully appreciate and empathize with everyone else’s feelings.  If ever a musician was able to create a musical sense of community, Herbie has consistently done that in album after album.

Herbie’s latest album, "River: The Joni Letters," recently shocked the music world when it won the 2007 Grammy for best album of the year against more mainstream media darlings like Amy Winehouse, Vince Gill, the Foo Fighters, and Kanye West.  Jazz has usually been the tolerated stepchild of the popular music world, neglected and ignored, left to play in its room with a few of its misfit friends.  Despite that, Herbie’s jazz piano playing has garnered 10 Grammy awards, including two for other tribute albums to Miles Davis and George Gershwin.

It’s easy to see why Herbie was attracted to Joni Mitchell’s songs.  Not only is she a dynamic performer herself, but her portfolio of songs is  among the most influential in the last 30 years of popular music.  You can hardly read an interview with the most famous and respected songwriters of the last few decades without having them mention their debt to Joni.  In the movie "Love Actually," Emma Thompson tells her husband, played by Alan Rickman, that Joni Mitchell “is the woman who taught your cold English wife how to feel.”  Using a variety of musical influences from folk to rock—and especially jazz—Joni taught a whole generation around the world how to feel.  The genius of Herbie Hancock is he’s using those same songs to teach us all how to feel again—but even more deeply, more richly.

Although all the song titles will be familiar to avid Joni Mitchell fans, some of the songs are more obscure to the casual listener: “Edith and the Kingpin” (with vocals by Tina Turner) and “Tea Leaf Prophecy” (with vocals by Joni Mitchell) to name two.  But some of her most familiar songs are also here, including “Court and Spark” (with vocals by Norah Jones), “River” (with vocals by Corrine Bailey Rae), and “Amelia” (with vocals by Luciana Souza).

Even when the song titles are familiar, the same can’t be said for Herbie’s interpretation.  His unique gift is for taking what the listener thinks he knows, and presenting it in a way that forces us to re-imagine the song.  Many musicians, even jazz performers, fall into the trap of producing an album in which the songs, when played all at once, start to sound disappointingly similar.  Herbie deftly avoids that trap by taking risks that defy listener expectations.  His interpretation of Joni’s “The Jungle Line,” with poet/novelist/musician Leonard Cohen reciting the lyrics, is one such example.  Yet, there is a musical thread that weaves all the songs together as if they were all well-crafted chapters in an intimate novel: the feathery brushing of the drum, the unhurried insistency of the piano, the soulful voices of the singers.  Joni says in “Both Sides Now”: “I really don’t know love at all.”  But listening to this tender and thoughtful album, we might all feel a lot closer to knowing love.

(Photo credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

April 04, 2008

My thoughts on UCLA

Video Credit: Courtesy of UCLA

My eyes were seeing it, but I couldn’t believe what I saw. I had stumbled across my grade school graduation – autograph book and saw in the “favorite college slot” UCLA. This choice was made by me at a time that I couldn’t recall. A time before I was an accomplished basketball player with scholarships being offered at every turn.

My current memories of how I became a UCLA fan were connected to a time some three years later June 1961 --  when I graduated from grade school. It really made me stop and think about how I was to become a Bruin.

One evening stood out in my memory. I am thinking of watching the "Ed Sullivan Show" and Rafer Johnson was introduced on Ed’s show. Rafer had been a world renowned athlete at this time, but he was introduced to the audience as the student body president of UCLA. I was impressed by the fact that his athletic achievements were not given any emphasis.

At a time when violent demonstrations by racist white mobs were common on college campuses that were being integrated, UCLA was showing the world that a black man could be more than a “jock” at UCLA. This was an impressive statement that spoke of commitment to equal opportunity. Rafer was definitely not being exploited for his athletic talent. He was given the opportunity to achieve on the most meaningful levels at UCLA. I, for one, was very pleased to see this attitude by the university being shown on national TV. I’m sure this show aired before I even thought about attending UCLA as a student-athlete.

UCLA next got my attention during the '63-64 college season. They had a small team, no starters over 6-foot-6,  but they managed to win consistently against bigger teams. The name John Wooden became familiar to me by the time the NCAA Tournament rolled around. In those days you could only follow teams in various areas of the country by reading box scores. ESPN had not yet made its appearance, so reading box scores was the only way to follow any team, and I thought that Walt Hazzard and Gail Goodrich were pretty good, but I kept thinking they would lose to a bigger physical team. Lo and behold, UCLA entered the tourney undefeated -- its trademark being a suffocating full-court press and a quick fast-breaking offense featuring the deadly outside shooting of Goodrich and fast-break buckets created by the penetrating and quick accurate passing of Hazzard.

On the night of the Finals, I was supposed to attend the birthday party of a good friend, Lazette Suttles. Lazette’s dad, though, was a serious sports fan. And he allowed myself and two or three other fans to watch the game on his bedroom TV. The game was a rout, as UCLA ran Duke off the court in a dominating performance. At this time, I was an All-American center, but the speculation by many sports writers was that I was not hefty enough to be a dominant center in college. I saw that night how a team playing in the style of UCLA could beat a physical team with speed, finesse and tenacious defense. As skinny as I was, I felt I could be an important player on such a team. My high school senior year was one when my team as well as myself received a lot of attention, and we repeated as champs of the New York Catholic League. The NCAA Finals again were on during Lazette's next birthday party, and her dad was equally gracious again and let us fans watch the game on his bedroom TV. UCLA ran a larger, more physical team off the court … this time it was the Michigan Wolverines, who were led by All-American Cazzie Russell.

I had seen the Michigan team play in the Holiday Festival, which they won. The Final was a matchup of All-Americans, with Princeton’s Bill Bradley going against Cazzie head to head. Bill scored 50-something, but Michigan’s balance and Cazzie's leadership were too much for Princeton. Again, UCLA really got into it at the critical moments. I was very impressed with John Wooden’s approach to the game.

I went to visit only four schools that spring: UCLA, St. Johns, Michigan and Holy Cross. My high school coach, Jack Donohue, took the job at Holy Cross, so I paid them a visit. I had known St. John’s coach Joe Lapchick throughout my high school years and became good friends with his son Richie, who attended my coach’s summer camp in upstate New York. Michigan had done well in the Big 10 and NCAA, so that seemed to round things out in terms of potential choices. I received two letters from UCLA alumni which were influential with regard to my choice. One was from Jackie Robinson, who was certainly a hero to me. I was a die-hard Dodger fan as a kid, and Jackie was still very high on my list of great people. Dr. Ralph Bunche also wrote me, saying that UCLA would be a great choice for someone who had my aspirations as a student-athlete. My visit to the campus seemed to confirm my hopes about the possibilities at UCLA. It was a great school academically and it had a great basketball program run by a superior coach. When I left New York on my visit, there was ice on the ground. When I got to L.A., the palm trees were in all their glory. It was an easy choice to make and one that I have never regretted.

April 03, 2008

The Lakers gotta have heart

Kareem_paugasol After watching the Lakers I was reminded of the song from "Damn Yankees," "You Gotta Have Heart."

Last night the Lakers were enhanced by the return of center Pau Gasol. Gasol has been out with an injured ankle since March 14, and his absence created the worst of situations for the Lakers. When they acquired Gasol from Memphis, he was able to step in and solidify their front line and their confidence almost instantly. Without him, the Lakers have been very unstable and have tried to get by with people playing out of position to fill the void created by his absence. A center is the heart of the team. A player who can do well at that position is a foundation that other players use to fortify their own ability to contribute to the team’s success. Without Gasol, the Lakers seemed tentative and confused at times, and his return will make it possible for them to actually prepare to contend for success in the playoff season.

There is also the hope that Andrew Bynum will be ready to make his return soon. His injury in January started the unsteady tendencies of the Laker squad. All the fans that support the Lakers are waiting with much anticipation to get the opportunity to see Gasol and Bynum on the court together. I know I will be relieved to see Bynum return, because then I’ll be able to go to the market without having to answer the questions about when he’ll return. As it is, I have to shop at 1 a.m. to avoid the constant questions about when Bynum will return. He could make this playoff season one to remember.

(Photo credit: Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)

April 02, 2008

Nostalgia and Dodger Blue

(Pamela Anderson, Jaime and Frank McCourt, Kareem and Billy Crystal)

The retro baseball at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Saturday, March 29, was a blast, although I totally embarrassed myself. I thought, I was a fair to middling Little League pitcher. So, when I was suddenly called upon to throw out the first pitch before the second inning, I thought it would be okay. However, I was wrong and totally tanked it.  I threw an ugly grounder that would had gone into the dugout if there had been one. I had to call upon the "Skyhook" to retrieve some honor and was able to successfully hook one over home plate. Thank heaven for those classic games of Laker Showtime that are still running on the tube. The crowd remembered my signature shot and loved it!

The rest of my time was spent having a wonderful time talking to some of my heroes from  childhood. I got to chat with Duke Snider for a good half hour, and for a few minutes with Carl Erskine and Roger Craig. Billy Crystal, who has been my friend since high school, was my guest. He was still stoked over his recent major league at-bat for the New York Yankees. Billy went to college on a baseball scholarship, and as a former resident of the Bronx is a die-hard Yankees fan. None of us likes to strike out, but striking out in pinstripes was totally okay with Billy. Of course there were distractions, or I should say one major distraction -- Ms. Pamela Anderson. She really is an actual sweetheart. None of her fans get disappointed. The goodwill she exudes and her smile are as genuine as they come.

So, for this Dodger fan it was a great night. Dodging pedestrians on the way out the way the old-time Dodgers fan had to dodge trolleys was even worth it. Go Blue!

Click here for more photos from the event.

For more about this game click here.

(photo credit: Iconomy.com)

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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Kareem_READ The American Library Association (ALA) is pleased to announce that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has joined the popular Celebrity READ poster series. The Celebrity READ poster campaign is one of the most effective ways to encourage people to get a good education, improve their reading skills, and to read for sheer enjoyment.
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.

To purchase Mr. Abdul-Jabbar's poster and to view the entire line of Celebrity READ Posters, please click here. now!

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ESPN names Kareem The Greatest Player In College Basketball History

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