Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 6-time NBA champion; 6-time MVP award winner; 19-time All-Star; the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.
Former broadcaster Eddie Doucett, who long served as the radio play-by-play announcer for the Milwaukee Bucks, recalled when he coined Abdul-Jabbar’s shot.
“This guy created a masterpiece,” he said. “I was just there to give it a name.”
Now, that shot, his patented sky-hook, will forever be etched into bronze with the unveiling of his statue outside STAPLES Center on Friday afternoon.
“I can understand now what a man like Lou Gehrig means when he considers himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth,’’ Abdul-Jabbar said. “When you’re fortunate enough to be honored in this way, it’s a very humbling experience.”
A former No. 1 overall pick of the Milwaukee Bucks in 1969, Abdul-Jabbar won his first title along Oscar Robertson during his second campaign in the league. He was traded to the Lakers in 1975, winning the first of his titles with the team in 1979, the beginning of an era coined “Showtime,” and the start of a dynasty, when the purple and gold captured five of the next nine NBA championships.
Yet when reflecting on his storied career in the league during the unveiling of his statue, the 7-foot-2 center noted of something far more significant than his accomplishments on the hardwood.
“(My business manager) convinced me even though I was successful, I needed to turn that success into something else,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “And that was more than being just a great athlete.”
The New York native now serves as a cultural ambassador, has written several books on various historical subjects, appeared in documentary films and even started his own Skyhook Foundation – a program focused on “raising the academic aspirations of students by connecting them with mentors who are equipped to motivate and engage under-served youth to reach their potential.”
Those close to Abdul-Jabbar realized the impact he had and has as a person and as a model for today’s youth.
“I define a leader as somebody who stands up for justice and doesn’t block its path,” Richard Lapchick, a human rights activist, said, “and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been doing that since he was a young man when I first met him.”
Former U.S. president Bill Clinton echoed similar sentiments in a congratulatory video.
“To those of us, certainly including me, who have had the privilege watching you both on and off the court, you have been a real symbol of strength and an exemplary model for our children,” he said.
Those in attendance included former teammates and Lakers including Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Jerry West, who all reflected on him as a teammate.
“You taught us how to be a man and be professional,” Johnson said of Abdul-Jabbar. “You didn’t have to say any words. We saw you and we wanted to be like you.”
“Kareem was the most selfless super player that I’ve ever seen in my life,’’ West added.