Milwaukee Bucks legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar delivered a poignant message Friday to the team’s business partners — understand your neighbors instead of being suspicious of them.
“Go out and make friends with somebody that doesn’t look like you,” Abdul-Jabbar said during the “Diversity and Inclusion Conversation” gathering at the Mecca Sports Bar and Grill.
“You’re going to find out your community is a lot bigger than you could’ve imagined, so I really encourage all people in here to find out what this city is all about.”
Andres Gonzalez, the chief diversity officer for Froedtert Health and a panelist Friday, said Abdul-Jabbar’s challenge is something Milwaukee has been doing well, especially the last few years.
“I’ve seen the incremental steps that we’re taking, so I’d say it’s been gradual,” Gonzalez said. “But in the last two years, I think we have become far more intentional about it.”
The former NBA star advocated strongly for athletes to speak up on social issues. He did so donning a green-and-red hat he designed with his signature “skyhook” shot and No. 33 on the front.
He said LeBron James’ I Promise School doesn’t happen if he just shut up and dribbled, as Fox News’ Laura Ingraham wanted him to do.
“That’s ridiculous,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “The fact that LeBron James is an exceptional athlete does not eliminate the fact that he’s right.”
Abdul-Jabbar’s visit comes two days after the Molson Coors shooting where a gunman killed five people and then himself.
“These things seem to be like almost impossible to get rid of,” Abdul-Jabbar said of the shooting. “That bothers me. Our country should not be about this.”
The six-time NBA Most Valuable Player has been staying busy. He’s the executive producer of a new documentary “Black Patriots: Heroes of the Revolution,” which delves into the contributions of many blacks in the American Revolution.
Abdul-Jabbar planned to spend Friday in Milwaukee, visiting a BMO Harris Bank branch and attending the Bucks game against the Oklahoma City Thunder to sign autographs.
The first 10,000 fans attending the game were to get the Abdul-Jabbar-designed hats with his skyhook-themed logo and the Bucks’ classic green and red colors.
“It’s neat to reconnect with fans and reconnect with the Bucks,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “It’s nice to come back and have a positive connection.”
While he would like to see more post scoring in the NBA, he’s not holding his breath for the return of his signature skyhook.
“I learned while I was in grade school. … It’s not a hard shot to learn,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “It’s just that everybody wants to shoot the three-point shot.”
For now, it will just live on the hat as he tackles more pressing issues.