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May 23, 2008

The Lakers Comeback

I thought the Spurs prepared very well for the game and it showed in their ability to inhibit the Lakers through the first three quarters and build a 20-point lead at one point. But the Lakers made some pretty good adjustments and were able to get back in the game for the last quarter based on their ability to find the open guy, the energy of the Lakers bench players, and the fact that the Spurs went cold and the Lakers increased their defensive pressure. I think the fact that the Spurs had played a tough game on Sunday also has to be accounted for as well.

The Role of Kobe Bryant
Kobe only had two points in the first half, but he was just trying to do what the Spurs were allowing him to do. When he had good shots he took them and if not he passed the ball. Even though he didn’t get a lot of good shots in the first half, though, he was able to set up his teammates with five assists. Then in the second half, he started to assert himself more. Kobe is a great finisher. He’s one guy that if you’re offense is having a problem, he can get shots no matter what kind of defense is being played. In the second half, that’s what he did, putting up 25 points.

Game 2 Adjustments for the Lakers
On Thursday at practice coach made a point of saying that they weren’t patient enough with their offense, which is why they didn’t shoot particularly well. The open shots that they had they passed up and the ones that they tried to get weren’t there. So for Game 2 they have to be more patient and understand where their opportunities are.

There was also talk coming into the series about the Lakers potential deficiency on the boards after having been outrebounded by Utah in the last round. However, I don’t think that San Antonio has demonstrated a great rebounding advantage. The Lakers should be able to hold their own when it comes to rebounding.

Game 2 Adjustments for the Spurs
The Spurs are going to have to figure out how to be more consistent on offense. When they needed baskets in the third quarter, they really had a hard time once the Lakers figured out what they were doing offensively. And of course they need a better game from Manu Ginobili.

A Great Laker comeback From My Day
The Lakers comeback on Wednesday night had me reflecting on a great comeback we had when I was a member of the Lakers. We were playing Seattle in the playoffs and were down 18 points at the half because we had shot the ball very poorly and Seattle had a great shooting first half. But Coach Riley seemed to think that we could come back and that’s just what happened.

Andrew Bynum’s Surgery
The last time that I spoke to Andrew he was thinking about getting more opinions on what to do about his knee. Seeing now that he had the surgery, I guess that was the best option presented to him. I’m sure the Lakers and the Laker fans will be glad to see him back at full strength next season.

The Greatness of Charlie Parker
Stepping away from basketball for a minute, I’ve been reading a book titled, “Chasing the Bird: Functional harmony in Charlie Parker’s bebop themes” by Juha Henriksson. I haven’t finished it yet but it’s great because it kind of talks about what he meant to the art form of jazz in his own personal speak. It’s pretty interesting stuff. As far as great jazz musicians go, “Bird” ranks at the very top. And if you want to enjoy a great listen of Bird’s, there was a disc that was just released of he and Dizzy Gillespie from June of 1945. It’s an incredible find and definitely worth your time if you love jazz.

Kill Bill?

 

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On May 6th in Georgia, William Earl Lynd, 53, became the first death-row inmate executed in the U.S. in seven months.  Executions have been on hold all these months while the U.S. Supreme Court decided whether or not lethal injection protocols are constitutional.  In an overwhelming vote of 7-2, the Court decided they were constitutional and execution chambers in the 36 states that allow the death penalty are preparing to return to duty.  


 The Court’s decision, and Lynd’s execution, have provided another national platform for passionate voices to be raised over the use of death penalty.  What’s interesting is how loud and zealous the voices on both sides are when we consider that the death penalty itself affects a relatively small number of people.  There are 3,263 people on death row, 669 of them in California (which has by far the largest death-row population in the country).  Yet, the death penalty is constantly on the front page of newspapers, the lead story on TV news, and a litmus test for many voters on which candidate they will vote for.  Why is this one issue so foremost in our heads and hearts?  Because when people pass laws about who should live and who should die, they are defining themselves as community.  They are proclaiming their values, not through bland patriotic rhetoric, but through their deliberate actions.  We know that when the government kills in war, we all have our hands on that trigger—and when they execute in peace, we all have our hands on that syringe.


So what does the death penalty say about us?
The primary purpose of the death penalty, like all laws, is to protect the innocent.  Theoretically, if someone deliberately murders someone else, executing that person protects the rest of us by removing him from society, never again to be a threat.  But, as always, there’s a big difference between theory and practice.  While it’s true that the death penalty may protect us from the few individuals it does execute, it does not come without a price tag.  What Californians have to decide is whether or not we’re paying too much for what we’re getting.

How Much Money Does the Death Penalty Cost?
Every society is on a limited budget.  Therefore, priorities have to be made and every society must face some difficult choices about how to get the most protection out of each dollar.  California’s current $16 billion deficit threatens to handicap or destroy many institutions designed to protect society—and to save lives.  Already a $2-billion cut in school programs and health care for the poor has been approved by the Legislature.
Our hospital situation was already bad, now it can only get worse.  Los Angeles County alone lost 27 acute-care hospitals between 1994 and 2004; 7 other hospitals reduced services or cancelled their mental health units.  Trauma centers, which save hundreds of lives by providing immediate, specially trained medical care for life-threatening injuries, have closed throughout the state.  Of L.A. County’s 23 trauma centers, 13 closed or were downgraded into emergency rooms.  The Hospital Survey and Construction Act of 1946 compelled hospitals to achieve 4.5 beds per 1,000 people.  In 2003, California’s ratio had dropped to 1.9 beds per 1,000.


Public schools, which protect our future by providing citizens who are competitive in the economic marketplace and educated in the needs of democracy, have also fumbled the ball.  Some inner-city students go through classes without textbooks.  Perhaps the greatest threat to California’s future is the fact that our students rank next to last in academic achievement in the United States.  We rank 50th in the nation (including District of Columbia) in school staff to student ratio, 51st in librarians ratio; 51st in guidance counselor ratio, and 49th in teacher ratio.  A 2007 study ranked California 34th in its students’ potential for success.  That’s not surprising when our students test below the national average in math, science, reading, and writing.  And current budget woes have caused the state to cut $4.8 billion from education and to issue pink slips to 24,000 teachers, librarians and nurses in our public schools.


While money is lacking in those areas, California has not hesitated in spending $114 million a year of taxpayers’ money on the death penalty (beyond the cost of lifetime imprisonment, and not including post-conviction hearings that cost millions more).  According to a 2005 Los Angeles Times study, we pay $90,000 more a year per inmate to keep them on death row rather than in the general prison population, which adds up to $57.5 million annually.  California’s Attorney General spends 15% of his annual budget ($11 million) on death penalty cases; our state Supreme Court spends $11.8 million appointing lawyers in death penalty cases; the Office of the State Public Defender and the Habeas Corpus Resource Center spend $22.3 million defending indigents in death penalty cases.  A 2008 study by the ACLU of Northern California concluded that to execute all the people currently on death row will cost $4 billion more than if they had been sentenced to life imprisonment to die of disease, injury, old age.  State after state has conducted cost-efficiency studies of the death penalty—most recently New Jersey, Indiana, North Carolina, Florida, Kansas, Tennessee, and Texas—and all have concluded that the death penalty costs significantly more than sentencing someone to Life Without Possibility of Parole (LWOPP).


Because counties that seek the death penalty must pay for the costs, many smaller counties have faced bankruptcy, reduction of social services, and/or increased taxes in order to pay for a death penalty trial.  Studies indicate that putting more police officers on the streets would reduce crime and make us safer; yet, budget cuts have forced the early release of thousands of prisoners while at the same time forcing some smaller counties to reduce the number of police officers and firefighters.  In 1988, Sierra County, California cut their police force in order to pay for their death penalty trials.  District Attorney James Reichele explained, “If we didn't have to pay $500,000 a pop for Sacramento's murders, I'd have an investigator and the sheriff would have a couple of extra deputies and we could do some lasting good for Sierra County law enforcement. The sewage system at the courthouse is failing, a bridge collapsed, there's no county library, no county park, and we have volunteer fire and volunteer search and rescue.”


I know some will ask, “How can you put a price on justice?” and “What if it were your mother or son who’d been murdered?”  Fair enough.  But given the current cost of the death penalty, my family is much more at risk from not having enough police on the street, firefighters in their stations, thousands of inmates released into our communities, and from a critical lack of hospital staff.  There are 7,000 deaths annually in hospitals from errors in medication, partially due to understaffing.  That’s 7,000 every year versus the possibility that an inmate sentenced to LWOPP might possibly escape and kill again.


Is the Death Penalty Color Blind?
A lot has been made of the ratio of whites to blacks on death row.  I don’t think that statistic in itself proves racism.  It’s possible that people who have been systematically discriminated against for centuries have less economic opportunities than others and therefore may resort to crime and violence to a greater extent than those with the opportunity to resort to college and business school.  In other words, the poor may more often act out of desperation and ignorance more than those who are financially secure.  They may have less respect for the rules of a society they see as not giving them a fair break.  That could explain why 42% of men on death row are black, though they comprise only 6% of the total U.S. population.


Or it could be that people of color are more likely to be singled out to receive the death penalty.  The study by David Baldus and George Woodwort in the 1980s exposed a nationwide practice in which the district attorneys (98% of which are white, 1% are African-American) were much more likely to go after black defendants for killing a white victim, than for killing a black victim, or than go after white defendant for killing a white or black victim.  More than twenty years later nothing has changed.  A recent Santa Clara Law Review study found that the victim’s race significantly influenced whether or not the death penalty would be sought.  Studies in Ohio, Illinois, and New Jersey reached similar conclusions.  Since then, discrimination continues in various forms, the most common is the attempt by district attorneys to exclude jurors of color, which is unconstitutional.  


The studies are condemning enough, but add to that the voices of the experts, and it’s pretty convincing that racial bias permeates the death penalty process.  Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, who had started as a death penalty supporter, became an ardent abolitionist.  He stated, “Even under the most sophisticated death penalty statutes, race continues to play a major role in determining who shall live and who shall die….I cannot see any of these death penalty cases where there hasn't been a violation on the ground of either poverty or race. If we can ever get that straightened out, it will help. But, of course, the real answer to it is to do away with the death penalty.”  Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was equally appalled at the injustice of the death penalty: “When in Gregg v. Georgia the Supreme Court gave its seal of approval to capital punishment, this endorsement was premised on the promise that capital punishment would be administered with fairness and justice. Instead, the promise has become a cruel and empty mockery. If not remedied, the scandalous state of our present system of capital punishment will cast a pall of shame over our society for years to come. We cannot let it continue.”  Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan reached the same conclusion: “Perhaps the bleakest fact of all is that the death penalty is imposed not only in a freakish and discriminatory manner, but also in some cases upon defendants who are actually innocent.”


Yes, some people sentenced to die have been proven to be innocent.  In the last 25 years, 129 people in 26 states have been released from death row because of new evidence proving their innocence.  Some may think that proves the system is working; innocent people are being found out and released.  The problem with that logic is that while these people are still alive long enough for us to discover their innocence, what about those who are executed before their innocence is discovered?  Few people will keep trying to prove convicts’ innocence after they’re dead.  Many of the people released have been on death row for decades.  A couple weeks ago in California, Adam Miranda, who had been on death row for 26 years, had his death sentence voided by the state Supreme Court after it was discovered that the main witness against him had signed a confession to the murder.  The letter was placed in Miranda’s file by then-deputy district attorney Lance Ito (who later was the judge in the O.J. Simpson case) without sharing it with Miranda’s attorneys.  After 26 years on death row, the truth is finally out there.


Various studies have been conducted that conclude innocent people have been executed.  That’s mathematically inevitable.  So, the questions comes down to this analogy: You have ten people condemned to be executed and you know one is innocent, but you don’t know which one.  Do you execute all of them anyway, chalking up the innocent victim as collateral damage, or do you put them all in prison for life without possibility of parole hoping that one innocent person will be discovered?  If this choice defines my community’s morality, I would hope we’d choose to protect that innocent person.  After all, isn’t that what this is all about in the first place?

Final Word: The Body of Evidence
Are there people who commit crimes so heinous and barbaric and unconscionable that they deserve to die?  Damn right.  But the death penalty, as we now have it, isn’t the instrument of justice to achieve that goal.  It’s like going hunting with a broken gun that blows up in our faces every once in a while, though we never know when.  Until that gun is fixed, it’s better to use a different weapon.


Yes, we should have enormous outrage over the victims and on behalf of the victims’ families who must endure a lifetime of pain.  But we can’t express that outrage by deliberately risking the lives and welfare of everyone else in society.  Instead, we should lock the criminals away for life and get on with the business of serving our community—including the families of the victims—by protecting them with more police, firefighters, hospitals, and teachers.  We honor the memories of the slain by redoubling our efforts to protect all the innocent members of our community.

May 14, 2008

Lakers-Jazz Analysis & Career Playoff Games Record

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Robert Horry and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

On the Lakers Game 4 Performance

They got themselves in a tough situation on the road and they got a little intimidated by the crowd and being away from home, just not wanting to be there and fight their way in an uphill battle. But that’s what it’s like when you’re on the road. It surprised me because they’ve played Utah pretty tough this season. In fact they were one of the few teams to beat Utah in Utah this year. I thought that would not be a factor. For example, if they shot their free throws like they shot them in the first half, they win the game. It was amazing how the crowd affected their performance across the board.

What the Lakers Need to Do to Win Game 5

I expect the Lakers to put their Game 4 performance behind them and come out and play hard and intelligently like they usually do. The goal is to try to win one here and set themselves up to, even if they can’t win in Game 6, make sure that they return to Los Angeles for Game 7 if it’s necessary.

Jordan Farmar’s Struggles

I think Jordan’s problem is he’s having a very difficult time defensively. Deron Williams is a very difficult assignment for him.Deron is stronger than Jordan and just as quick. He’s got serious upper body strength and he just blows by Jordan. It’s a real problem.

The Second Round Homecourt Advantage

The homecourt advantage is something that some people rely on. Teams that are able to focus and win on the road are dominant teams. Maybe it has something to do with the parity that the NBA has tried to foster.

Jerry Sloan, the Player

I got to see Jerry Sloan play against Oscar Robertson. We were in the same division with them when Jerry was with the Bulls. Just the physical battle that he had with Oscar, those were classics. Jerry was a hard nosed guy and he saw Oscar as a challenge. Every time he had an opportunity he went out there and gave Oscar his best.

It was something worth watching. Oscar had success against everybody. No one could stop him. But Oscar would acknowledge that Jerry was one of the people who never ever said die. Jerry is that kind of guy. He brings it all on the court. I have a lot of respect for Jerry.

The Difference in Coaching Styles of Sloan and Phil Jackson

They are totally opposite, as opposite as they are in personality. Jerry is just a hard nosed guy who understands the fundamentals of the game and teaches his team how to win. It doesn’t strike me that he is into a whole lot of X’s and O’s. His offense is pretty simple and it’s all about his team executing the offense. Phil’s X’s and O’s strategy is a little bit more involved. I have never seen Jerry coach on a daily basis so it’s hard for me to assess how he does it, but I think Phil’s approach is more involved and has a lot of strategy. He spends a lot of time working on the triangle. Phil feels that if they run the offense efficiently and with everybody doing what they should be doing, it sets them up to play good defense and give them an opportunity to dominate the other team.

Byron Scott’s Coaching Success

Byron has done a great job everywhere he’s gone. He was doing a fantastic job in New Jersey and they fired him. I didn’t get that. I am glad he got the opportunity in New Orleans. The team has responded. Nobody gave him what would be considered a bunch of All-Stars but he’s got them operating on the same page and getting it done. That to me is all the credit to Byron. He certainly earned his Coach of the Year Award. I didn’t see or hear anything while he was playing to lead me to believe that he would become a coach, but when I was with the Clippers in 2000 and Byron was with the Kings I got a chance to go sit with him for a minute the couple times that we played them. He was enjoying himself and Coach Adelman thought he was a great addition to his staff. At that point I thought that Byron would have some future in coaching and when he got his opportunity he did a great job with it.

Robert Horry: Big shots, Hall of Fame chances and Breaking My Playoff Record of Games Played

Robert has been around because he understands how the game evolves over the 48 minutes. He knows how to do the right thing at the right time. He always seems to be at the right place at the right time to help his team win. He has had many standout shots in his career, but the one that stands out for me came against the Kings in Game 4 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals because of how fortunate he was on that play. Vlade Divac could have controlled that rebound but he just took it and threw it out of the paint and it went right to Robert Horry. If he tries to control that rebound and smothers it, Robert Horry doesn’t get that chance. So I attribute that one to Vlade Divac not understanding what he needed to do. Some of the other ones like when he was with Houston show that when the game comes to him he does good things with his opportunities. He seems to thrive on rare opportunities. Every time he gets it he does something great with it. He’s got to be a fan favorite for it.

As far as the Hall of Fame goes, you have to look at the whole career. His career in the playoffs has been remarkable. You look at the regular season, you might come to a different conclusion, but you can’t take away his success.

Robert is on the verge of passing my mark for the most games played in the playoffs. But we’re talking about two different eras. When I first started playing, if you won the world championship you only played in three rounds of playoffs. So it was an opportunity for him and he’s made the best of it.

Gene Block inaugurated as UCLA Chancellor

Yesterday Gene D. Block inaugurated as UCLA chancellor in festive ceremony at Royce Hall.

The pomp and circumstance befitting such a ceremony was punctuated with music and dance representing UCLA's diverse and talented student community — from a gospel choir rendering of the national anthem to a performance by the Mariachi Uclatan folkloric group.

This was my speech:

We are here today because UCLA has a new Chancellor.  That’s a funny title, isn’t it: Chancellor? Sounds like someone who’s running a small European country, wedged somewhere between Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.  Yet, when you consider that this man will be overseeing 37,000 students, 27,000 faculty and staff, and a budget of $3.8 billion, he really is running a small country.  Only this one’s wedged somewhere between Hollywood and our imaginations. 

Because UCLA isn’t just another country.  It’s an exceptional country.  A visionary country.  A country where students come, not just for an academic education, but to fulfill dreams.  They come here—just as I did 40 years ago—to find out who they are, who they want to be, and how they will make the most of their lives.  I didn’t come here just to play basketball, I came here to learn about myself, my community, my place in the world.  Although, I did a pretty good job playing basketball, too.

It takes a special kind of person to take on the responsibility of providing that kind of learning and nurturing atmosphere.  He must be willing to preserve the legacy of UCLA’s past, while insuring the promise of its future.  As someone who has worked so hard to bring some honor to UCLA’s legacy, I feel like I have a special interest in its future.  That’s why I always believed the person running this place has to be as exceptional as the school itself.  Although there have been various renaissance periods throughout history—from Italy to Harlem—here at UCLA there is always a renaissance going on because this school remains at the forefront of achievement in the arts, in science, in scholarship, and in sports.  Naturally it follows that to properly guide this campus would require a renaissance man or woman.  Someone with an innovative vision of the future, yet, who possesses the skills and talent to make that vision a reality. And that’s exactly what we have in Chancellor Gene Block.

A scholar in circadian biology, an inventor holding several patents, a compassionate teacher, a committed administrator, a restorer of high-performance cars, and, most important, a husband and father. I’m sorry that I must now leave this event – The Lakers are still alive & kicking and I must deal with my coaching responsibilities. But I wanted to add my voice and welcome to Chancellor Block. I hope all of you have a great day today and that UCLA continues to attract great leaders such as Chancellor Gene Block as we continue into the 21st century.

May 10, 2008

MVP reflections: My first ever, my first in L.A., and my last



Winning my first MVP in 1971, my second year with the Milwaukee Bucks, was a great honor. I liked the fact that it went along with us winning the world championship, and having done it while playing with Oscar Robertson made me feel great. During that season, I had to play a couple of games against Wilt Chamberlain, who was the standard prior to me for excellence in pivot play. I was able to outplay him -– 40.2 PPG in five games, including a 50-point game –- and that to me was an indication that I had possibly arrived.

Prior to the 1975-76 season I was traded to the Lakers. I was very fortunate to win my fourth MVP award that year, because the team didn't do well. We finished 40-42 and missed the playoffs. But I had such a great year statistically, that's why I won it. In 1980, when I won my last regular-season MVP, that was also the year that a rookie named Magic Johnson burst onto the scene. When we got Earvin, we had somebody that could run the team offense. Jack McKinney did a great job of understanding Earvin's unique ability to play the game and to devise an offense that worked for all of the people that we had on the team. I've won six total regular-season MVPs, more than any other player, and people ask me all the time -- do I think that another player will achieve that number? It’s always possible, but it’s going to take a dominant player to do it. There have been a lot of great players to not win it.

Thoughts on Kobe’s First MVP:

My thoughts on Kobe’s first MVP: Kobe has had the ability to score so prolifically that people at times have knocked him. But winning that award helps put everything in perspective and shows that he's been a leader and team player in addition to being so brilliant at what he does.

Fisher’s Return to Utah:

Derek Fisher’s return to Utah on Friday is the one-year anniversary to the day of what Derek went through during last year’s playoffs with his daughter’s medical troubles and his emotional return for Game 2 of the Jazz’s Western Conference semifinal series with the Warriors. I thought Derek made quite a statement both as a professional athlete and as a parent that day. He was able to do both with an outstanding degree of determination and focus. When he returned to Utah this season as a member of the Lakers, I was surprised by the reception he received from the crowd, and I didn't understand it. Maybe the people up there in Utah have some issues that I'm not aware of.

What Derek Fisher Means to the Lakers:

I think Derek Fisher brings a lot to the Lakers --  he has meant quality leadership for the team and he runs the offense with a steady hand. He keeps the younger players from just flying off the edge emotionally, keeps them steady and keeps them focused. His excellent play on the court aside, I think he is very valuable to the team just because of his leadership qualities. Derek has made everybody focus on how we need to win instead of getting into useless details. He's enabled the team to recognize the difference between those useless details and what is important to succeed.

My Most Memorable Moment:

My most memorable moment for our franchise, and for me personally, was beating the Celtics in 1985. That was a very special moment. I was fortunate enough to be the MVP in that series. That, to me, had a whole lot of emotional value to it, which some people might not understand. The Lakers were 0-8 against the Celtics in championship play up until that point, but we finally had the better team. And for me being a key reason for the Lakers to be able to finally break through was even more special.

P.S. Today is my last blog for the L.A. Times. Starting Monday, May 12,  I will be moving my blog to my own website. I hope you will join me at www.kareemabduljabbar.com so we can continue sharing.

May 08, 2008

Answering Fan Mail On Olympics Boycott: 1968 vs. 2008

I have received many comments on my article about the Olympics Boycott, on paper and online - so here we go:

To Frank Antonacci, Sid Holmes, Dean Nelson, Jim Beran, Steve Adams, Ed Robinson, Steve Baker, Arthur Carlson, Rich Larsen, Clarence Chappell, Greg Gose, Jamile, Ed Shatzen, Carla Nardoni, Christian DeBlis, Bill Lundy, Bob Guild... Thanks for your support.

To Beau... An Olympic medal would have been a nice experience for me but I felt that my diploma was a more important priority and stayed with my summer job. Thanks.

To Klaus Beiten... Klaus stated that many other nations have issues with U.S. that are quite similar to the issues other say that they have with China. I am very aware of the double standards that stick out when life in America is compared with life in other countries. Truly not one nation on Earth can claim it is doing a perfect job in caring for all of its citizens. We have a ways to go as a species. I hope more people like us are able to reach out and create more awareness on these issues.

To Robert Liu... Thanks for your response to my article. I hope there will be more opportunities for our various communities to interact. All the best, K.

To Chuck Reilly... As I clearly stated in my article there was no boycott of the '68 Olympics. I personally did not boycott those Olympics nor do I regret not going. Our nation was represented by outstanding basketball athletes in 68 who won the gold medal. I am proud and happy to say that I don't hate anyone based on their ethnicity. I've had issues with how some white people have treated black Americans through the years. You might want to google Emmitt Till, Medgar Evers or Martin Luther King Jr., also the movie "Mississippi Burning". The last thing I should share with you is the fact that any issues between myself and my high school coach were amicably resolved long before he passed away. Sorry to disappoint you. Oh and the R.I. tourney was in December of '63.

To Kai Chen... Thanks for your informative e-mail that shares info on the nature of the Chinese Communist Party. Detailed information on that subject was not available to me before I heard from you. I will not be totally ignorant about that subject in the future. I hope that athletes such as yourself will be able to attain the democratic freedoms we take for granted.

And finally thank you all, and each one of you. Your K.

 

May 06, 2008

Oz comes to Dubai

 

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Click here to see all images from Dubai.
    I have recently seen some amazing pictures from Dubai which is an Arab country on the southern shore of the Persian Gulf. I am amazed by the enormous growth that it has experienced in the 15 years since I first visited there.
    Dubai has respectable oil industry but that sector of its economy accounts for only 6% of its size. The leaders of Dubai sought to make it a modern commercial hub and not become a place that had only oil to offer. It doesn't have religious police and women have rights that are actually respected. The growth that I am referring to is truly mind boggling because 15 years ago, the city had at best a few high rise buildings.
    Today it looks like a city out of the Stars Wars movies. It is in the process of putting up the "worlds largest structure" and has completed other land development ventures that are truly remarkable including the worlds tallest hotel, the worlds largest waterfront development, and undersea hotel and artificial islands that have been made in the Gulf. Dubai has also hosted major sporting events that have gained the attention of the worlds sporting elite. It has taken a lot of foresight from the Rulers of Dubai to achieve this kind of development in so little time. By diversifying the nature of business in Dubai the nation has assured itself a place in the economy of the 21st Century.

May 05, 2008

Ace in the hole

The Lakers were able to overcome a week’s absence from playing and take game one from the Jazz but it was certainly not an easy win. Had the Lakers not benefited from the presence of Kobe Bryant they might not have that victory put away.

Utah plays a every physical game and they are very determined to win the “small areas” of the game to gain their victories. By “small areas” I mean to say that the Jazz see every possession as a plus for their way of winning. Loose balls, rebounds, steals, turnovers, jump balls and defensive pressure that results in a change of possession will all be utilized to beat you. Their style is very reminiscent of the style of play of their coach Jerry Sloan.

Jerry was emblematic of the term “hard nosed” when he was a player for the Chicago Bulls. I can remember several games he played against my former teammate Oscar Robertson that were serious physical battles with no prisoners taken. The Jazz will use any and every way to beat you and they don’t tend to make the mental errors that take teams out of contention. On Sunday the Jazz did not shoot the ball very well but were able to overcome that deficit by pounding the offensive boards. They were able to stay in the game by regaining the ball after missing shots and keeping possession.  The difference in offensive rebounding was Utah 25 and Lakers 8. The Lakers will have to do a much better job of rebounding on their defensive end if they want a happy ending to this series.  The second chance points that the Lakers gave up (26) were way too much to tolerate for a team that wants to go to the next round. But the Lakers have a serious ace in the hole named Kobe Bryant.

Kobe led the Lakers in scoring with 38 pts and also had a team high 7 assists. The series will be definitely be determined by the adjustments that will be made by either team. The Jazz will want to shoot the ball more effectively and the Lakers will want to do a better job on their defensive board and thus limit the Jazz to one shot every time down court. In the end they will have and Ace in the hole (Kobe) that should be a determining factor in this series. 

When I played the Jazz back in ’88 every game was a grind. The Jazz won the first game in LA which put alot of pressure on the Lakers. We went on to win the second game in LA then went on to lose to Utah for game three. We overcame them in Utah for game four however the pivotal game for the Lakers was game 5 because we went up 3 games to 2. We won the game with Michael Coopers game winning shot with only three seconds left. Cooper made a lot of clutch shots for us throughout his career but this was his only game winning shot.

Boycott Questions: 1968 vs. 2008

 

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(Right: Spencer Haywood (8) leads way during U.S. gold-medal win at the 1968 Games, where there was a protest by black Americans but no boycott. Left: Smith, who won the 200-meter dash at the Olympic Games in Mexico City, along with bronze medalist and teammate John Carlos.)

Quick note: I will be replying your comments shortly.

In 1968 I was a twenty-year-old college junior whose basketball success had been made famous.  I’d been honored as Player of the Year, Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament, named the USBWA Player of the Year, and played the “game of the century” against the Houston Cougars at the Houston Astrodome.  So it wasn’t surprising that I was invited to try out for the Olympic basketball team to represent the U.S. in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.  Any other year I would have been proud and elated at the prospect of playing for my country against the world’s elite athletes. But 1968 wasn’t like any other year.
    The Vietnam War had divided the country more violently than any time since the Civil War.  The nightly news clips of U.S. planes bombing the Vietnam jungle was paralleled by clips of angry, sometimes bloody, clashes between war protesters and war supporters.  The Tet Offensive, in which 80,000 Viet Cong troops attacked 100 towns and cities in an effort to end the war, proved that the enemy was resourceful, resilient and in no mood to surrender.  It also increased public opinion against the war.  But the war wasn’t the only cause for all the social unrest and upheaval.  It was more like a bright light that illuminated many other social ills that we’d all managed to ignore or, even worse, pretend didn’t exist.
Black soldiers stationed in Vietnam complained of ramant racism.  When Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated that same year, some white soldiers flew Confederate flags outside their barracks.  Some blacks tried to avoid the racism by requesting to serve in all-black units.  One Air Force report confirmed what black soldiers already knew: “Unequal treatment is manifested in unequal punishment, offensive and inflammatory language, prejudice in assignments of details, lack of products for blacks at the PX, harassment by security police under orders to break up five or more blacks in a group and double standards in enforcement of regulation.” Military discrimination didn’t just result in hurt feelings, it could result in death: by 1966 over 20 percent of U.S. combat casualties in Vietnam were black, which was a much higher percentage than the total of blacks in the military.
    As the racism became more evident, some black soldiers naturally questioned their loyalty.  After all, the Vietnamese were people of color, subject to the same racial discrimination that they themselves were experiencing at the hands of whites.  Muhammad Ali articulated this dilemma when he said, “No Viet Cong ever called me nigger.”  And for refusing to register for the draft, even though he was guaranteed he wouldn’t see combat, he was stripped of his title and sentenced to five years in prison (later the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction).  On the other hand, some blacks saw the war as an opportunity.  “I thought the only way I could make it out of the ghetto,” confessed one black paratrooper, “was to be the best soldier I possibly could.”  Although Vietnam veterans were often disappointed at the tepid reception they received upon their return home, black veterans were even more disillusioned because the injustices they had left to fight against were still alive and well.  One black vet remembers coming home in 1968 and entering a restaurant in Virginia with some army pals that included two whites and three Hispanics.  The waitress told them she would serve the whites, but not the others.  “I think that going in a lot of us felt like things were going to be different,” the vet recalls.  “And when we realized that things wouldn't be, a lot of us felt used.”

    Violence was almost as rampant at home.  First Dr. King was shot, then Robert Kennedy.  The 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago featured thousands of anti-war protesters that were met with police violence.  In the midst of all this international and domestic turmoil, the Olympic Games represented, to some, an opportunity to bring people of all nationalities together, maybe heal some wounds.  To others it represented the usual hypocrisy of ignoring the political problems in the name of entertainment and profit, because billions of dollars were at stake.
    And there I was in the middle.  Twenty years old.  The age of many of the soldiers who were fighting and dying in Viet Nam.  Some of them were my childhood friends who I’d grown up with.  Because of my visibility as an athlete, whatever I chose to do would have international reverberations.

    At that time sociology professor Dr. Harry Edwards, only twenty-six in 1968, urged black athletes to boycott the Olympic Games in Mexico City.  “For years we have participated in the Olympic Games, carrying the United States on our backs with our victories, and race relations are now worse than ever," he told the New York Times Magazine in 1968. “We're not trying to lose the Olympics for the Americans. What happens to them is immaterial….But it's time for the black people to stand up as men and women and refuse to be utilized as performing animals for a little extra dog food.”  Harsh words to many white sports fans and self-proclaimed patriots alike, but for African-American athletes, there was a clear ring of truth behind the rhetoric.  Clearly the Olympic Games and the Vietnam War were parallel competitions.  In each, blacks were supposed to go overseas to drive themselves as hard as they could in order to bring glory to their country, only to return home and still be treated as second-class citizens.
All that gave me a lot to think about.  Then baseball-pro-turned-broadcaster Joe Garagiola interviewed me on the Today Show and for the first time I spoke publicly about my concerns and frustrations regarding the direction the country was taking politically.  Garagiola was clearly annoyed that I would even consider boycotting the Olympics.  My response was that for black Americans life in this country was still something that included racially based discrimination in every area of life. The economic, legal and social biases against blacks were at the time a very real burden in any black person's life.   Most of white America was focused on the chaos of the war, the rebellion of the youth against traditional values, of women insisting on more rights, and of economic pressures.  The problems of black Americans just seemed like a lower priority.  But to us, the social upheaval was an opportunity to be heard, to be seen, to evoke change.  Ending racial discrimination so that we could all enjoy the opportunities that whites had was our highest priority.
    Eventually the idea of a boycott was abandoned because Dr. Edwards was unable to attract a critical number of athletes to the idea.  Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali and I met to discuss the boycott and each of us had our own reasons for not becoming involved.  In my case, I had a summer job with the city of New York that paid me very well and enabled me to attend school without having to worry about financial matters. We didn’t boycott, but we did not support it either.

    However, that October at the Olympics, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, after winning first and third in the 200-meter dash, raised their black-gloved fists from the medal podium and bowed their heads during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  This image captured the spirit of the times: whites were outraged, blacks felt some rush of pride.  Ironically, their gesture was a compromise; dozens of black American athletes had debated boycotting the games but decided that this gesture would speak louder than not showing up.  Dr. Edwards was credited with suggesting this compromise.  Today, Dr. Edwards is a renowned sports psychologist who teaches at the University of California at Berkeley, and he served as a consultant to the San Francisco 49ers football team and the Golden State Warriors basketball team, as well as an assistant to the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.  Although the rhetoric has softened, his commitment to the black athlete has not.  He continues to fight for black inclusion, but on the management side of sports.

    Here we are forty years later and we are once again about to send our young athletes overseas to compete in games while we send our young soldiers overseas to fight in war.  And, as before, there is a social agenda attached to the Olympic Games.
    There is an unpopular war going on in the Middle East that has divided America into two camps.  There is a genocidal war going on in Darfur, Central Africa, and the government of China, the host country of the Olympics, supports the Sudanese government, which is pursuing the Darfur conflict thorough proxy insurgents.  China also has been involved in what many people see as the suppression of the rights of its Tibetan subjects.  China took control of Tibet in 1956 and has absorbed it into its political structure with very little concern for the reactions of Tibetan people.  The Dalai Lama, who is the spiritual leader of Tibet as well as its political leader, has been exiled in India for many years and the Chinese accuse him of promoting secession and violence among those who are still loyal to him.  Many people around the world support autonomy or even independence for Tibet, which is a very irritating position for the Chinese.  Violent demonstrations against anyone who supports the Tibetans' cause have flared up throughout China.  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  China’s record of human rights violations is long and varied, including the persecution of everyone from political rivals, journalists, artists, students, prisoners, and many other groups.  Despite China’s public relations blitz to portray a kinder, gentler panda-bear cuddliness, most people can’t erase the horrors of the 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square when peaceful protestors calling for democratic reform were gunned down by the military, killing anywhere from hundreds to thousands.
    Should we boycott the Olympic Games to protest China’s arrogant human rights performance, their political imperialism, their shoddy exports that recently have left some Americans ill or dead?
The answer is no.  While it may seem disingenuous to be playing games with countries that aim weapons at us, the same claim can be made about us by many other countries. I am of a mind that the actions of Tommy Smith and John Carlos made a difference in 1968.  However, this Olympics is an entirely different situation that requires different tactics to achieve a satisfactory resolution.  Instead of turning our backs, we need to continue a dialogue with the Chinese.  When people stop communicating with each other, the situation doesn’t get better, it gets worse.  The more we talk with each other, the more we understand each other and can reach compromises that will benefit the lives of those we are trying to help.  Getting innocent people freed from prison or preventing others from being persecuted is much better than just wagging our fingers from across the ocean.  Jackie Robinson once said that the great thing about athletics is that “you learn to act democracy, not just talk it.”  That’s what our athletes will demonstrate to the one billion Chinese who may be watching.
    A second means of influencing the Chinese is through globalization, in which we share products, entertainment, and culture with others—and they share theirs with us—in order to break down the barriers that make us fear each other’s differences.  Economic interdependence, in which we share risks and profits of international sales—makes us more dependent on each other and therefore more willing to compromise in other areas.  The NBA is a good model for globalization.  In China, the Chinese Basketball Association permits only two foreign-born players per team.  But the NBA’s policy of choosing the best players, regardless of nationality, has not only kicked up the level of play, but it’s made basketball more popular on an international level than ever.  The fact that the NBA brought in China’s Yao Ming, Wang Zhizhi, Yi Jianlian, Sun Yue, and Mengke Bateer has increased NBA fans in China—and when the Chinese people are exposed to America through basketball, we become more human to them, less a threat.
So, let’s not just pick up our ball and stay home.  We have many more options—political, commercial, and cultural—to express our displeasure with China’s policies.  The more we have in common, the more impact we can make.  It’s all about building trust.

(Photo credit: Associated Press/Olympics 1968)

May 01, 2008

Unity Returns

Kareem_unity_larry_young_2 It's always a pleasure to share something that you find thrilling. The possibility that others might be the thrilled makes sharing such a pleasure. I recently got a bunch of Blue Note discs for my birthday and inside the package was a flyer that advertised t-shirts that featured retro album covers and one of those albums featured is one of my all-time favorites, UNITY. 

The Unity disc came out in 1966 or so and was giant step forward for the post-bop tradition. It features Organist Larry Young who is backed by Joe Henderson tenor sax, Woody Shaw on trumpet and Elvin Jones on drums. For me this disc distills the post bop sound that Blue Note was known for. All of the musicians are in their own right -first rate performers. Joe Henderson and Woody Shaw had been featured with Horace Silver's band, and Elvin Jones was one of the key contributors in John Coltrane's rhythm section, while Larry Young was an emerging voice on the organ. Organ players were so confined by the Blues and music of the black religious experience that it seemed to the music loving public that the organ would never be heard in any other context. Larry Young blew down the borders that confined the sound of the organ and stretched it out to include the visions of Bud Powell, Tad Dameron and Thelonius Monk.

I have heard people who are not necessarily jazz band fans rave about this disc and I'm sure that those of you who have not heard it will be thrilled to add it to their collection. The t-shirt is neat too! Enjoy..K

p.s. I will be moving my blog within the next two weeks to my website www.kareemabduljabbar.com please follow me over to my site so you can continue sharing. 

Barack pulls the plug...

Kareem_wright_2 Barack Obama has made the extraordinary effort to cut all ties between himself and Rev. Wright. There really was no choice for Senator Obama because he was seeing first hand how the rants of Reverend Wright negatively affect the sensibilities of most patriotic Americans.

Mr. Obama took issue with several statements that were made by the Reverend with regard to the recent controversy caused by the Reverends sermons while he was the Pastor at Senator Obama’s church.

Reverend Wright is very critical of many aspects of American life that involve racism and discrimination. However, he tends to go way overboard when venting about real and perceived bad deeds done to people of color. Most people would concede that there are many facts supporting his position but the Reverend goes to the max in labeling America as a racist oppressive society. There seems to be no good that can happen in America according to Reverend Wright. And most Americans, including Senator Obama, believe that there is plenty of good left in America.

The most disturbing part of the Reverends campaign was watching him make use of the media attention that has focused on him. He really seemed to relish a platform that allowed him to vent his views one more time. Most people have dismissed him as a crank but he doesn’t get it. The Reverend suggests that those who criticize him don’t get it. I think the Senator has the best idea as to what to make of the Reverend. It’s time to leave him to his own devices and supporters and move on. The coming election is too important an event to ignore.

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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