Kareem Abdul Jabbar April 16, 1947


Kareem at 3 years old

Kareem Abdul Jabbar raised in the Catholic Church and attended parochial schools. In grade school he was one of only two African American students enrolled at St. Jude's Elementary. Outside of school he spent his time with his friends, shooting baskets at a playground called the Battlegrounds at Amsterdam and 151st street. In the fourth grade Jabbar transferred to Holy Providence Boarding School in Cornwells Heights, Pennsylvania, where the student population numbered 40 boys, all of whom were African American. It was a motley crowd at Holy Providence, which was mainly a reform school. Jabbar, who was an honor student, hardly fit with the crowd, and when he completed the school year his parents brought him back to New York City.


Kareem Abdul Jabbar 17 years old

On scholarship at Power Memorial High School from 1962-66, he played with the varsity team for four years. Under the direction of coach Jack Donahue Jabbar led his team to a 78-1 record and two national championships. He lettered and made the all-city team for each of his four years of high school, and set a New York City record for the most points scored by a high school player. He set a record also for the most rebounds.


Kareem Abdul Jabbar at UCLA (1967)

He attended ULCA and was able to play on the college’s freshman team just because the “freshman rule” was in vogue. In all the three years after which he attended college, he contributed to ULCA winning an astounding eighty-eight wins just against two losses. Twice he scratched his cornea, one of them being during his career as a college basketball player.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar graduating UCLA

After graduating from ULCA IN 1969, Abdul-Jabbar started to play for the then obscure Milwaukee Bucks, who were in their second season of existence.Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) during graduation at UCLA on June 15, 1969.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the Bucks Jersey (1969)

Beginning his twenty year long career in the NBA, Abdul-Jabbar started to play for the Milwaukee Bucks, his presence enabled the Bucks to come second in the NBA Eastern Division during the 1969-70 season. He gained instant attention, and he was awarded the NBA Rookie of the Year.

Till his transfer to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1975, Abdul-Jabbar had always a dominating presence while playing for the Milwaukee Bucks. He won four of his NBA Most Valuable Person awards while playing for the Bucks, enabling them to be division leaders for four straight years.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar joins Lakers (1971)

On being transferred to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1975, Abdul-Jabbar kept on with his dominance and his penchant for establishing new records, one of them being his 1,111 defensive rebounds that remain unbroken to date. It was during his seasons with the Lakers that he began to wear his trademark goggles in order to defend his eyes from more damage.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar with his trademark glasses


Over the next 15 seasons Abdul-Jabbar turned Los Angeles into a perennial winner. Beginning with the 1979-80 season, when he was paired with rookie point guard Earvin "Magic" Johnson, the dominant center propelled the Lakers to five league titles.

His signature jump shot, the skyhook, came to be an unstoppable offensive weapon for Abdul-Jabbar, and the Lakers enjoyed championship dominance over Julius "Dr. J" Erving's Philadelphia 76ers, Larry Bird's Boston Celtics and Isiah Thomas' Detroit Pistons

Even as he aged, the health-conscious Abdul-Jabbar remained in remarkable shape. Well into his 30s, he still managed to average more than 20 points a game. By his late 30s, he was still playing around 35 minutes a game. In the 1985 Finals against the Boston Celtics, which the Lakers won in six games, the 38-year-old Abdul-Jabbar was named the series MVP.


Kareem Abdul Jabbar's retirement

When Abdul-Jabbar retired in 1989, he was the NBA's all-time leading scorer, with 38,387 points, and became the first NBA player to play for 20 seasons. His career totals included 17,440 rebounds, 3, 189 blocks and 1,560 games. He also broke records for having scored the most points, blocked the most shots and won the most MVP titles in 1989.


Since his retirement, Abdul-Jabbar hasn't strayed too far from the game he loves, working for the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers. He even spent a year as a coach on the White Mountain Apache reservation in Arizona—an experience that he recorded in the 2000 book A Season on the Reservation. He has written several other books, including 2007's On the Shoulders of Giants, about the Harlem Renaissance. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has also worked as a public speaker and a spokesperson for several products.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar 1997-2007


In November 2009, Abdul-Jabbar announced that he had been diagnosed with Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia. This rare form of the blood and bone marrow cancer is manageable with medication. Abdul-Jabbar made this announcement almost a year after first receiving the diagnosis. Since he responded well to medication, he has shared his experience with the public to promote greater understanding of leukemia and its treatment.

In the years since, Abdul-Jabbar has continued to pursue an impressive variety of philanthropic and cultural endeavors. He co-wrote and served as executive producer of a 2011 documentary film based on his book On the Shoulders of Giants. The film focused on a historic match played by the first all-black professional basketball team, the Harlem Rens, and featured interviews with Maya Angelou, Bill Russell and John Wooden, as well as music by Wynton Marsalis. In April 2015, the 68-year-old Abdul-Jabbar received a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease. Shortly after receiving his diagnosis, he underwent quadruple bypass surgery and has made a complete recovery.

In 2016, President Barack Obama recognized Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s contributions to American society with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. The President noted that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had dominated professional basketball, along with fellow recipient, Michael Jordan. Citing the NCAA’s banning of dunking during Abdul-Jabbar’s time in college, Obama said, “when a sport changes its rules to make it harder just for you, you are really good.”


Created with images by Kip-koech - "Kareem Abdul-Jabbar"

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