Kareem's interview with Dave Dameshek, ESPN
Listen to Kareem's interview on ESPN 710 on The Dave Dameshek Show, click here .
Listen to Kareem's interview on ESPN 710 on The Dave Dameshek Show, click here .
(Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kevin Garnett)
The Lakers' Second Half
The Lakers played well in the third quarter and actually had a four-point lead going into the fourth quarter, but then Boston’s defense and the poor Laker shot selection really took them out of the game. The Lakers shot 5-for-20 in the fourth quarter. You’re not going to win shooting 25 percent. Kobe missed a lot of shots and at times seemed as if he was pressing in the fourth quarter when Boston really focused its defense on him. The team just did not do it correctly in terms of taking the best shots. The Lakers offense is based on constant ball movement and on Thursday night it seemed as if the ball was constantly stuck in one location too often. They needed to move the ball better and the guys who were open needed to take their shots. It might have been a case of guys deferring to Kobe when they should have thought about shooting their shots when they were wide open.
Game 1 Turning Point: Paul Pierce Returns
I think when Paul Pierce got injured, came back and made those two three pointers, that really turned the tides. At that point, when he was out of the game, the Lakers were trying to get the lead. They were only a point or two behind and they missed four or five shots in a row. So he comes back on the court and hits those two three pointers and we missed a couple of shots. It was essentially a 10-point turnaround.
Pierce’s return to the game after injuring himself was a great playoff moment. Paul has a lot to be proud of. His dedication to winning that game was quite evident. He comes back on the court and shoots the lights out and puts all the pressure on the Lakers to perform well and it didn’t happen for them. It was a very important moment in that game and it really swung the momentum to the Boston team. They continued to make their shots and play good defense, which is why they won.
Sunday: Keys for Game 2
If the Lakers want to win Game 2 they have to figure out a way to keep Kevin Garnett in particular off the offensive boards. They were badly outrebounded 46-33 in Game 1. They’re going to have to do a better job on their defensive boards and stick with their offense. Phil has run through this problem at other times when the Lakers decide that it’s OK to shoot a lot of three-point shots. That has always spelled disaster for them and it is still the case. If they can stick to their game plan and hopefully make their shots when they have them, they have a good chance of winning the game. The Celtics didn’t beat them as badly as they did during the regular season. It was a close game until late into the fourth quarter. That is a good indication.
The Mood of the Lakers
They’re disappointed that they weren’t able to make the best of this opportunity, because it certainly was a missed opportunity. But they also know that they have as many as six more games to change that. I’m looking forward to them coming out and playing better.
photo credit: Getty Images/ NBA
Yes, I Was a Celtics Fan
When I was in high school, my coach Jack Donahue really understood that the Celtics were playing the game a special way, so he always used them as examples as to how to play the game. My high school was only 12 blocks from the old Madison Square Garden and the teams used to practice at my high school when they were in town. I guess because of that my coach could finagle tickets to go see games, especially the doubleheaders. So during my four years of high school I must have seen the Celtics play a good 20 times.
The Celtics Style of Play
The Celtics philosophy was to let the open man get the ball and he’s supposed to take the high percentage shot. They didn’t have anyone score a whole lot of points, but they had five or six guys in double figures shooting the ball very efficiently. Bill Russell played great defense around the basket and really limited any layups that you might get. The combination of tough defense and efficient offense makes for winning basketball. I was able to learn those lessons early. I think by my going to UCLA and John Wooden emphasizing the same fundamentals, it was very easy for me to make that transition.
Meeting the Great Bill Russell and Other Basketball Legends
I was in the ninth grade, November or December of 1961. I went to the gym and the Celtics were there practicing. My coach introduced me to Red Auerbach, who introduced me to Bill Russell. They told me to go shag balls for someone who was shooting free throws. That someone turned out to be a rookie named John Havlicek. Also, when I was playing grade school ball, we played an All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden and I got to meet and know some of the Knicks like Willie Naulls, who eventually got traded to the Celtics. Because of all those connections I was a Celtic fan and really appreciated the way that they played the game.
Bill Russell, the Role Model
I heard a lot about Bill Russell because of the success of the Celtics and then because Bill had had certain things to say about human rights for black Americans. He had some very profound things to say and I admired what he had to say and listened to what he had to say. It made a lot of sense. He was about being proud and achievement. He represented achievement on the basketball court. We’re still friends today. He hosted a clinic in October which I took part in. He set a great example for young athletes. Here he was, someone who graduated from college and did such a great job in his college career, and went on to do the same thing in the professional ranks.
'74 Finals, Bucks vs. Celtics
That was a hard fought series. Unfortunately for our team Oscar had a nagging injury which limited his effectiveness and the Celtics won in seven. I’m pretty sure the outcome would have been different had Oscar been healthy, but that’s not going to change anything.
'84 Finals, Lakers vs. Celtics
The things I remember most about that series was that we gave away Game 2 in Boston Garden when Gerald Henderson stole the ball and tied the game up which the Celtics won in overtime. That game ended up being the decisive game. Game 4 included the infamous clothesline of Kurt Rambis by Kevin McHale. I thought it was a pretty cheap shot. Kurt had no chance of falling safely and he’s lucky that he wasn’t seriously hurt. It was the type of thing that angered our team, and probably provided a distraction looking back. It seems like that was a turning point and it affected us.
Then in Game 5, both teams had to battle the overly hot conditions in the old Boston Garden. Was it something that was done on purpose? I guess you would have to talk to the people who run the ventilation system at the old Boston Garden, but both teams had to play on the same court. It’s not like they didn’t have to deal with it.
'85 NBA Finals – The Highlight of My Career
I guess you could say that Game 1 was a wake up call for us, me in particular, when we lost big to Boston (148-114). For me it just pointed out that I had taken the wrong approach to dealing with the whole length of the playoffs and I needed to be in better condition. We had a three day gap and I was able to use the time and get sharp again in terms of being in shape and ready to run the court. For the rest of the series I did very well. When you go out there and everything is on the line and you’re not prepared, that is embarrassing to you as a professional. I felt like I had let my team down. They rely on me to do my job on a certain level and then here I am when everything is on the line and let them down. So I just made them a promise that if we didn’t play well, it wasn’t going to be because I wasn’t ready to play. Luckily I was able to turn it around.
Having played the series in Milwaukee and then the series the year before that we had given away, it was very important that we played well and live up to our potential. I was very thrilled to be a catalyst in that. But it wasn’t just some kind of one man show. James Worthy and Earvin were extraordinary that series. We had a great team effort, guys coming off the bench, everything. Everybody really wanted it and worked hard to make us successful.
I think that was the highlight of my career just because of the significance of finally beating the Celtics for me personally and for the Laker franchise. That I was the key element in that winning the MVP, it really was a special time for me.
Game 4, 1987 Finals: Magic’s “junior, junior, junior” skyhook game
I worked with Earvin on his hook shot previous to that the whole season, maybe even longer than that. Earvin got to post up a lot of smaller guards and it was the perfect shot for him to use. So I worked with him to get his mechanics right. On that play it was pick and roll and once Earvin got loose, Robert Parish came off of me to block the lane and Earvin threw a hook shot over them. If the shot hadn’t gone in I was pretty sure I had the rebound. No one was boxing me out. I had a free run to the basket. But Earvin dropped it and the rest is history.
The Significance of Lakers-Celtics in the Finals in 2008
The historical success of both the Lakers and Celtics makes it an interesting series for anybody that has studied the game and knows about its history. It’s a little bit of added interest and it’s something that the fans seem to get into.
Keys for Game 1
Which team is able to establish its style? This is a different Laker team that the Celtics faced during the regular season since they did not have Pau Gasol in their two previous meetings and the Celtics were up and down. I don’t expect it to be too much different, though. Gasol’s presence will make a difference and if Kobe is able to continue doing what he’s been able to do, to involve everyone and make sure that our offense flows and everyone gets to touch the ball, the Lakers can be very effective.
The Importance of Experience
The team that has enjoyed success as a group, they more or less understand how to go to that place more so than teams that don’t win regularly. I think that more than anything else is the most important aspect of that.
Any Lakers-Celtics Grudges? Nah
A lot of years have passed since the classic Laker-Celtic Finals matchups of the ’80s and though we battled each other on the basketball court throughout the years, we’re all friendly now. It was an intense rivalry, but basketball is a brotherhood. I have great respect for them as professionals. They played hard and they played well. They were a credit to the game, so it’s nothing to bear grudges over.
Photo credit: (Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images)
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.
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.
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.
(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.)
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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.”
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)
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)
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.
(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.
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.
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)
(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!
For more about this game click here.
(photo credit: Iconomy.com)
The last time I attended the NCAA Finals was in 2006 when UCLA played the Florida Gators for the championship. As I was walking down the tunnel with Bill Walton to enter the stadium my cellphone rang. It was Coach Wooden's family calling to let me know Coach was in the hospital in serious condition. I was stunned as I entered the stadium in the midst of almost 80,000 fans. I had to sit and watch UCLA be outplayed while my Coach was in the hospital. To say the least it was an overwhelming moment. I left immediately after the game and flew overnight to be by Coach's side first thing in the morning. Luckily he survived diverticulitis, but his health has been up and down since then. So watching UCLA beat Xavier in the latest round has helped prove to everyone that the program is still one of the best. This has been UCLA's third Final Four appearance in the last three years.
The Xavier game was not as interesting to me as the win over Western Kentucky, because Western Kentucky did an exceptional job in speeding up the integration of college basketball and hasn't been given a lot of credit for it. Although I'm a Bruin in heart and soul, I was rather torn while watching this game. Western Kentucky is my oldest son, Kareem Jr.'s alma mater. Another connection I have to WKU is alumni Greg Smith, who was my teammate on the Milwaukee Bucks for two years and the starting forward on our 1970-71 World Championship team. Greg was also a really good friend and my buddy on road trips, where we got to indulge our movie addiction. But my feelings for Western Kentucky go back even further. Western Kentucky was the forefront of the fight to integrate college basketball in the 1960s and early '70s. While head coach at WKU, Coach John Oldham (who took over for previous head coach E. A. Diddle in 1964) dealt with some very ugly situations while the transition took place, and he has not been recognized for his courageous stand. For his part, Coach Diddle had recruited Clem Haskins and Dwight Smith in 1963. Coach Oldham continued that legacy, recruiting black players and eventually starting five African Americans on the WKU team — and staying the course in spite of criticism from some of the fans and faculty. Along the way, he coached his team to four NCAA appearances and probably would have made it to the finals in 1966 if a very controversial call hadn't cost them the semifinal in the NCAA Tournament. In 1967, Clem Haskins broke his wrist, which kept WKU from being at full strength for the season. Nonetheless, college peeps owe WKU a tip of the hat for the positive changes it helped to promote.
(Photo Credit: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Jr., Sonny Rollins & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Sr.)
My relationship with golf is rather distant. I can enjoy watching but I don’t have the desire to spend my free time on the course or at the range. I’m from the Mark Twain school of golf. Mark Twain described golf as "a fine walk ruined." I couldn’t agree more, but we are witnessing the continued rise of Tiger Woods as golf's reigning king of kings. No other golfer is close to challenging him as the best in the game these days. I have enjoyed watching his rise to prominence. Some 25 years ago I was intrigued to watch footage of Tiger playing golf at 5 years of age with his dad and local sportscaster Jim Hill. As an avid fan of the game, Jim had the perfect human interest story when he showed young Tiger as a precocious preschooler on the golf course. But that was just the start. Tiger has gone on to dominate that sport like no other golfer has. He is poised to pass Ben Hogan for lifetime major wins and he is just 32 years old. But there is another black golfer who is totally unknown and who is responsible for a major contribution to the modern game. His name is Dr. George Grant.
What was golf like before the invention of the golf tee in 1899? Golfers had to carry a bucket of sand from hole to hole. They would scoop the sand out and build a little mound, placing the ball on top like a cherry on an ice cream sundae.
Then along came Dr. George Grant (1847-1910) to completely revolutionize the game by inventing and patenting the modern version of the golf tee. But Dr. Grant was used to being a revolutionary. Born in Oswego, N.Y., this son of former slaves was the first African-American to receive a scholarship to Harvard University Dental School. Two years after graduating, Dr. Grant became the first black faculty member of Harvard, where he was a highly respected professor for 19 years.
His passion for golf led him to invent his tee, a carved wooden peg with a concave top. Dr. Grant did not market his invention, nor did he pursue any moneymaking schemes. He merely gave the tees away to anyone who wanted them. Ironically, it would be another 63 years before Charlie Sifford would become the first African-American allowed to become a member of the PGA tour.
Photo credit: David Cannon / Getty Images, LA Times.
A. You can catch a cold from going outside with your hair wet.
B. You have to drink eight glasses of water a day.
C. Candy makes kids hyperactive.
D. Reading in dim light will ruin your eyesight.
The answer: none are true. A cold is caused by a virus and studies show that those who are exposed to the virus become infected whether or not they are chilled. Most people get plenty of water simply through their normal diet. Experts agree that there is no evidence that feeding children a high-sugar diet causes any hyperactivity. Reading in dim light may temporarily tire your eyes, but otherwise has no permanent effect.
Most celebrities know that this same kind of misinformation can be circulated about them simply because the more outrageous the claim, the more people will want to read it. I’ve been subjected to some of those claims, some outrageous, some merely annoying. And, like the myths I presented above about colds, water, candy, and reading, they persist even though there’s no truth to them. One of the common myths about me was repeated last week when a friend of mine was playing in his weekly basketball league and a teammate asked him, “Why was Kareem always so angry?” That’s not the first time I heard this charge. What’s weird about it is that every morning when I get out of bed, bluebirds, squirrels, and deer help me get dressed while we sing “We Are the World.” By the way, squirrels really suck at tying shoes. And deer often mumble the lyrics.
Even that doesn’t make me angry.
What’s interesting about the question is that the person who asked the question is white. In fact, no black person has ever asked that question. That’s because they already know the answer. In the 1960s and 1970s, when the civil rights movement was at its most intense and volatile level, I often used my celebrity to speak out against certain injustices. This seemed to irritate some people who expected black athletes to simply be silently grateful for their opportunities and not rock the boat. However, being given this tremendous opportunity to play college basketball at UCLA, how could I not speak out to help the many other black athletes who were not being given the same opportunity? To not stand up for integration of college athletics would be to dishonor the brave heroes who spoke out and made my opportunities possible. People like Bill Garrett (who is sometimes called the Jackie Robinson of college basketball), Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, and dozens of others. How could I not be angry to realize that many great players were being denied a college education and/or the chance to play before larger crowds( and therefore be more valuable if they chose to turn professional)? They were being denied a future.
The integration of college sports would have happened without me. But I like to think that I made some small contribution by adding my voice to those who fought to make this a better world. For some, my voice may have seemed shrill or angry; but for those on the right side of the issue, it seemed loyal and compassionate.
How do I feel now? Grateful that we’ve come so far. Encouraged that so many people are still adding their voices to the fight for equality for all people. In other words, I feel happy. Just ask the bluebirds.
I’ve been honored by being chosen the Number One college player of all time. It is a very special honor for me because I have been picked ahead of some of my heroes and many superb collegians. When I’ve been asked about my status, I have always deferred to Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell as the greatest players in college ball. They get that acknowledgment from me because I learned so much from the way they played, and I would not have been as good as I was without their examples to emulate. So a special thanks to the “O” and Bill for the paths that they blazed.
Another factor has been the more recent trend of college players leaving the game for the professional ranks. Players in my era had to stay in school or wait for their high school class to graduate college before they could enter the NBA. That forced us to stay in school and learn the game in a less-intense atmosphere –- something that allowed us to mature and develop a work ethic. Today’s players miss out on that bonus, and it slows their ability to be at their best when they reach the pro ranks. But I’m sure they don’t mind being paid the multimillions that are available to them as soon as they decide to go pro.
I’d like to add a few words about the best college game I ever attended. Being raised in New York, I was so lucky to be able to catch the best college teams at various times in the old Garden on 48th Street and 8th Avenue. While in grade school I got to see great Providence teams featuring Lenny Wilkens and Vinnie Ernst; Nate Thurmond and Howie Komives from Bowling Green; and the Bradley Braves led by Chet Walker and Laverne Tart.
During my senior year in high school, Dec. ’64, I attended the Holiday Festival matchup of University of Michigan vs. Princeton. It was a truly superb contest, with Bill Bradley leading the Princeton Tigers and Cazzie Russell leading the Wolverines. Both teams were ranked in the Top 10, and the game was exceptionally close. Bill scored 41 points before fouling out with less than three minutes left in the game. Cazzie calmly took over from there and Michigan finished with a two-point win over the Tigers. The Princeton team could not compete without Bill on the court.
For me, that game was the finest example of college ball I had ever seen. It gave me a great look at what my future could be like if I continued to improve. I want to say thanks to all the college players and coaches that have given us this incredible sport in which to compete. Without them, we would be at a loss for our aspirations. Thank you one and all.
All last week I was reminded of the speed and great distance that a person can fill in such a short time. The great track and field athlete Marion Jones had to surrender herself for incarceration at a federal penitentiary in Texas. I had admired her talent and poise as she dominated her sport. She was a prominent face at the Olympics and undoubtedly served as a positive role model for young females who aspired to reach athletic greatness. For so many of us who followed her career, the revelations that exposed her performance enhancing drug use and financial missteps were a shock and great disappointment.
The temptation to cheat has seemed to overwhelm a whole generation of athletes. Football, baseball, track and field, bicycling and boxing have all been affected by this evil. I feel that the only remedy is to return to the core values of sport that made them such a valuable measuring stick for humanity. The dedication and discipline that was necessary to excel at sports seemed to give athletes a leg up on the rest of humanity. Those inner forces seemed to indicate that any individual who possessed them was someone special. Teamwork and willingness to play by the rules made athletes more capable of succeeding outside of the field of play and helped to shape many leaders in all walks of life. If we can get back to these simple values, we may be able to give those who participate in sports a direction for their aspirations. Hopefully the next Marion Jones will be a person to emulate and not someone we pity for her failure to make the right choices.
(photo credit: Sports Illustrated cover)
Recent times have seen many people decry the loss of prestige that America has suffered by way of the war in Iraq, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other fiascoes. But I can point to a story that has touched my life that clearly shows how America still holds the torch of liberty and freedom for all the world to see.
The Lakers recently signed Didier "D.J." Mbenga to a contract with an eye to solidifying our bench. His story has helped me to see how much freedom and opportunity mean in the world today. D.J.'s dad was involved in the regime of Mobutu Sese Seku in the Congo. He was an administrator in this regime. Politics in that part of the world are in many ways a minefield, but Mr. Mbenga did his job and was able to send his family to live in Belgium. D.J. lived in Belgium from the age of 6, but his father felt that the family should return to the Congo to see first-hand what their homeland was all about. The timing of their visit was most unfortunate. D.J.'s father was implicated in an attempted coup and imprisoned immediately, along with other family members. He never returned from the lockup. D.J. was imprisoned also and would have met the same fate as his dad if not for a relative who was able to secure the family's release by bribing their jailers. A flight was arranged for their escape, and they made it by the slimmest of margins. There were threats to shoot down the flight as it took off, but somehow the Mbengas made it back to Belgium.
D.J.'s athletic potential has made it possible for him to have an opportunity to play in the NBA. He is a quiet, cheerful young man with a positive outlook, and he is so thankful for the opportunity to play basketball. His story should serve as an example of how lucky we are to live in a country with the many rights and opportunities so that many cannot dream of in the rest of the world.
Have no doubt about it, the torch of liberty that is held high in New York Harbor sheds a very special, wonderful light. We who live here are truly privileged.
The Lakers stepped up and delivered in a major way in last week's victory over Phoenix. It was a statement of the first order. The Suns' acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal was an attempt to put some muscle and size in the mix for a small but speedy lineup. Shaq was able to deliver some muscle but that alone is not going to stop these Lakers.
The depth and cohesion of the Lakers squad is a pleasure to watch for Laker fans. Pau Gasol has made a seamless transition to the Laker offense and complements Kobe perfectly. His ability on the perimeter to shoot, pass or attack the hoop creates problems for both his defender and those trying to help. Lamar Odom is like a Swiss Army knife at both ends of the court and is a threat to produce triple-double stats at any time.
Kobe was his usual self despite an injury to his shooting hand. The most ominous fact for their opponents is that the Lakers are not even at full strength. Trevor Ariza and Andrew Bynum are still sidelined with injuries at this point. When they return, we may get to see some truly scary hoops.
Like the rest of the Laker faithful, I can't wait for the next episode.
Photo of Pau Gasol taking on Shaquille O'Neal in Phoenix, by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Today is cool day for me. ESPN.com is launching my audio/visual show as a part of my audio book On the Shoulders of Giants. It shows you some insights to my life when I was a young boy growing up who loved baseball and had no serious interest in basketball. As a boy I was interested in competing in many sports -- sandlot football, baseball, basketball, swimming and track and field. But baseball was my real love. The field started to narrow down as my body started to develop and I had the prominent physical attributes to become a very good basketball player.
My dad played a hand in this also, telling me that I would get hurt playing football in ways that would preclude me from playing any other sport. Thanks, Dad!
While I was coaching for the Knicks in 2004, I took a quick peek at the Inwood Little League playing fields, and the league is still up and running. It brought back many fond memories of my baseball days, so I hope that you all enjoy the ESPN E-Ticket excerpt of my new audio book, which reflects this era.
I watched a mixed martial arts event this weekend featuring street fighting legend Kimbo Slice. It was a featured live event on cable and drew a huge live audience in Miami. This form of combat has eclipsed boxing at the box office and in the hearts of fight fans, and when I watch these events I fondly remember the time I spent with the late Bruce Lee, who participated in these types of fights on rooftops in Hong Kong as a young man.
I feel that this style of combat is based on a concept that Bruce was instrumental in developing. The traditional fight contest would have people from one discipline only fighting each other according to the rules of that discipline. That created, for example, a situation where judo contestants would fight each other strictly according to judo rules. Bruce envisioned a contest where any style was allowed to go against any other style, with no restrictions as to how techniques were used. Bruce used tactics from any and all of the martial arts disciplines without regard to their origin. He considered people who would use only the techniques taught by their particular discipline as tradition-bound. Innovation and experimentation were frowned upon and thus severely limited an individual's ability to use what worked for him.
The Gracie jiu-jitsu clan from Brazil also started to train outside of the boundaries of traditional jiu-jitsu, and in doing so offended the tradition-bound superiors in the jiu-jitsu world. The Gracies and Bruce couldn't have cared less. The new approach made for effective self-defense, and anyone using the new concept became an unpredictable and formidable opponent, like Bruce or the Gracies. This new concept has led to new "mixed martial arts" contests that have captured the fight fans' attention big- time. It has also led to a realistic reappraisal of the effectiveness of the various styles.
Students from all styles now train with the realistic idea of what does and does not work when it hits the fan. I know Bruce would be happy to see the evolution of martial arts training that he pioneered become the standard throughout the discipline.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.
After watching part of the congressional hearings on drug and steroid use by professional athletes, I can only think of Oliver Hardy's complaint to Stan Laurel in so many of their comedies -- "It's a fine mess you've gotten us into" -- but this mess is neither fine nor funny.
I have been a baseball fan ever since I was a toddler, and the recent disclosures made by so many players, coupled with the evasive maneuvering by others, leaves me with so my questions and a very bad smell in the air.
The most recent spectacle of Roger Clemens and his accuser is like an ugly cherry on a rotten cake.
Given the totally contradictory testimony of those questioned, we are left with one clear conclusion: Someone is lying big-time. But whom do we accuse? It would be impossible for even the most accomplished detective to sort through all of the various assertions of those who are accused or suspected.
I've also seen the effect that the steroid craze has had on young athletes. I have been questioned a few times by aspiring athletes who want to bulk up as to how to do it and not get caught. The message they are absorbing from all this is to cheat, lie and disregard the long-term consequences.
I spoke to former All-Pro lineman Lyle Alzado before he died. He weighed about 160 pounds and had no hair and not many teeth left. He knew that he was dying and asked me to tell any kid who would listen not to follow his path. I shed more than a few tears that evening. Lyle was a good dude who made some poor choices.
I hope all the professional leagues make a concerted effort to get their franchises to provide role models who shun performance-enhancing drugs, something that I always avoided.
The youth of our nation deserve no less.
photo credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP
The Spurs -- the defending champs -- are the only team that has played a pat hand.
Summer ’07 saw the Lakers trying to make a deal to acquire K.G., which would ultimately fail. But that effort would not be the last we heard from the Lakers.
Frustration and impatience on the part of the Lakers faithful had reached a fever pitch. For those Laker fans, watching K.G. go to Boston was vexing to the nth degree. The only development that calmed that angst was the emergence of Andrew Bynum as a legit force in the paint. Laker fans were now envisioning having something to do in May or June after years of absence from the significant playoff games.
Then came an injury to Bynum that again pushed back the aspirations of Laker fans. But then came the ultimate in deals from the blue. The Lakers got to acquire Pau Gasol, an All-Star center, from the Memphis Grizzlies for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and two first-round draft picks. Presto-chango, and Laker fans are in heaven again. Gasol is a solid performer who has the same aspirations and hopes as the loyal Laker fans.
Not to be outdone, the Phoenix Suns have gotten in on the act. They have acquired Shaquille O’Neal to give them the sizable frontcourt presence that many thought was keeping them out of the championship round. If the 2007 playoff season was any indication, there is something credible in that view. Shaq has been quoted as saying that he will be able to adjust his talents to the Suns' up-tempo, run-and-gun style. The naysayers point to his conditioning issues and injury-plagued recent history.
In any event, this season has become very interesting for fans worldwide. Will the Laker-Celtic duel of the '80s be revived? Will the Suns break through this year? Will Detroit or San Antonio do their usual methodical march to the finals? Whatever the outcome, the stage is set for a very interesting and competitive playoff season. In all probability … the best in the last 20 years.
I was very happy to see the Giants win because when I was a kid they always lost the important games. I remember when they lost to Baltimore in 1958, in 1960 when they lost to Philadelphia, twice to Green Bay in 1961 and 1962, and then again to Chicago in 1963.
I remember they were like the Brooklyn Dodgers, rarely winning the big game. I was really happy to see them come through and win this big game.
I wore number 33 during my career because it was my favorite Giant player's number, Mel Triplett, a blocking back for the Giants and the only black guy in the backfield.
I met The Manning brothers, Peyton and Eli, in 2006 at the NCAA basketball finals, and we took this photo.
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.
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