Lewis Alcindor, better known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the best players to ever come out of New York City. KAJ is one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history- and bridged the gap between the bangers and Bullies like Wilt, Bill Russell and the smooth centers such as David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon.
KAJ grew up in Harlem and was a dominant High School player- winning 3 city championships averaging 20 points per game, he was recruited heavily by many NCAA programs but settled on UCLA under the legendary John Wooden where he won 3 more titles- and the Bruins only lost 2 games his entire stay in LA. Alcindor was also named Most outstanding player all 3 years and First team all-American as well as winning the first ever Naismith award as the best player in college ball. Freshmen at this time were not allowed to play back then so he went 3 for 3 at UCLA for titles, All Americans and Outstanding player in the final four.
Alcindor turned down a Globetrotter 7-figure a year deal and was drafted 1st overall by the Milwaukee Bucks who won a coin flip with the Phoenix Suns for his draft rights. The New Jersey Nets of the ABA also drafted him number 1 over all in their draft- Alcindor basically stated that whomever bid the most money would get to sign him- the Nets, thinking that they had a boost from being a New York team- didn’t bid as much and went with the money to the Bucks.
Alcindor won Rookie of the year- coming in second in scoring and third in rebounding leading the buck to a 19 game turnaround. The Bucks added Oscar Robinson and cracked 66 wins, Lew won MVP, lead the NBA in scoring and won the NBA title in the expansion Bucks 3rd year of existence. Alcindor celebrated his Finals MVP award with changing his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kareem went on to win 3 MVPs in Milwaukee but never was able to get a second title and in 1974 told the team he wanted to leave to either New York or LA.
The Lakers made the better offer and got Kareem for 4 players- 2 highly thought of rookies and 2 veterans. Kareem won his 4th MVP his first year in LA with 27.7 points per game and leading the NBA in rebounds, Blocked shots and minutes played- but the Lakers missed the playoffs.
The rest of the decade went almost the same way for Kareem and the Lakers- Kareem would be near the top of the NBA in scoring, near the top in rebounds, near the top in several categories but the Lakers could not get very far in the playoffs, Even with Jerry West, Gail Goodrich and Norm Nixon the Lakers simply could not get over the hump in the western conference. The Lakers finally made a move trading Gail Goodrich for the Utah Jazz’s first round pick that turned into:
With the addition of one of the greatest point guard to ever come into the NBA- Kareem won another MVP and another title- this time as a secondary threat behind Magic. Kareem accepted this role- as the years of being top dog in LA but losing was not the way he was used to living on the court- he was more than happy to let LA become Magic’s team. The only time he really got upset was I those 1980 finals when he was disappointed at not being named MVP of the Finals.
Magic and Kareem took the Lakers to 8 finals and won 5 rings- and Kareem was surrounded by some of the best players in NBA history- James Worthy, Byron Scott, and Michael Cooper among others and coached by another Hall of Famer Pat Riley- who was extremely skillful at keeping the three (and at one time, four) number 1 overall picks happy and working as a team. Kareem’s final year was in 1989- in witch he did almost a farewell tour of the NBA- notably getting standing ovations and presents from the NBA teams on the road- the then- Charlotte Hornets presented him with a custom-made rocking chair.
Kareem finished with many NBA records and at the top of several all-time lists
2nd in Games Played
3rd in Total Rebounds
3rd most Blocks- despite several years before that was an official stat
12th in Points per game
That’s does not tell the whole story- Kareem is also number one in: Minutes played, Most All-Star games and most playoff games played
Kareem has 3 NCAA titles and 6 NBA titles
He has 3 Most outstanding player trophies at UCLA and 6 NBA MVPs
Kareem entered into the Hall of Fame in 1995 capping one of the best careers in NBA history.
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