Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (born Ferdinand Lewis "Lew" Alcindor, Jr.
April 16, 1947 in New York City, New York
Power Memorial Academy (Manhattan, New York)
Milwakee Bucks, 1st Overall, 1969 NBA Draft
G - 1560
FG% - .559
3PFG% - .056
FT% - .721
Points - 38,387
PPG - 24.6
Rebounds - 17,440
RPG - 11.2
Assists - 5,660
APG - 3.6
Blocks - 3,189 (1973-1989)
BPG - 2.6
Steals - 1,160 (1973-1989)
SPG - 0.9
6 x NBA Champion
6 x NBA MVP
10 x All-NBA First Team
5 x All-NBA Second Team
5 x All-Defensive First Team
6 x All-Defensive Second Team
19 x NBA All-Star
4 x NBA Blocks Champion
2 x NBA Scoring Champion
1 x NBA Rebounding Champion
NBA All-Time Leading Scorer
NBA Rookie of the Year
NBA All Rookie First Team
Los Angeles Lakers #33 Retired
Milwaukee Bucks #33 Retired
UCLA #33 Retired
3 x NCAA National Basketball Champion
3 x NCAA Tournament MOP
3 x NCAA First Team All-American
2 x Associated Press College Basketball Player of the Year
Naismith College Player of the Year
2 x USBWA College Player of the Year
2 x Oscar Robertson Trophy winner
3 x Helms Foundation Player of the Year
2 x UPI College Basketball Player of the Year
One of 50 Greatest Players in NBA History
Elected to Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (1995)
Kareem grew up in Manhattan in New York City, the only child of Cora Lillian, a department store price checker, and Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Sr, a transit police officer and jazz musician. He was raised as a Catholic and attended St. Jude School in the Inwood section of Manhattan, but later converted to Islam. From an early age he began his record-breaking basketball accomplishments. In high school, he led Power Memorial Academy to three straight New York City Catholic championships, a 71-game winning streak, and a 79–2 overall record.
Lew Alcindor played three seasons for the UCLA Bruins from 1966-67 to 1968-69 under coach John Wooden, contributing to the team's three-year record of 88 wins and only two losses: one to the University of Houston and the other to crosstown rival USC who played a "stall game" (i.e., there was no shot clock, so a team could exploit the rules by holding the ball as long as it wanted before attempting to score). Alcindor won three national titles with the Bruins (1967-1969).
The dunk was banned in college basketball after the 1967 season, primarily because of Alcindor's dominant use of the shot. It was not allowed again until 1976.
While playing for UCLA, Alcindor suffered a scratched left cornea on January 12, 1968, at the Cal game when he was struck by Tom Henderson of Cal in a rebound battle. He would miss the next two games against Stanford and Portland. This happened right before the momentous game against Houston. His cornea later would be scratched again during his pro career, causing him to subsequently wear goggles for protection.
Alcindor boycotted the 1968 Summer Olympics by deciding not to join the United States Men's Olympic Basketball team that year, protesting the unequal treatment of African-Americans in the United States.
On January 20, 1968, Alcindor and the UCLA Bruins faced the Houston Cougars in the first-ever nationally televised regular season college basketball game. In front of 52,693 fans at the Houston Astrodome, Elvin Hayes scored 39 points and had 15 rebounds—while Alcindor, who suffered from a scratch on his left cornea, was held to just 15 points—as Houston managed to beat UCLA 71-69. The Bruins' 47-game winning streak ended in what has been called the "Game of the Century". Hayes and Alcindor would have a rematch in the 1968 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament where UCLA with a healthy Alcindor, would defeat Houston in the semi-finals 101-69, and go on to win the National Championship.
The Harlem Globetrotters offered him $1 million to play for them, but he declined, and was picked first in the 1969 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, only in their second season, who won the coin-toss for first pick over the Phoenix Suns. He was also chosen first overall in the 1969 American Basketball Association draft by the New York Nets. The Nets believed that they had the upper hand in receiving Alcindor's services because he was from New York; however, when Alcindor told both the Bucks and the Nets that he would accept one offer only from each team, the Nets bid too low. Thus, he chose the National Basketball Association over the struggling American Basketball Association.
Lew Alcindor's entry into the NBA was timely, as center Bill Russell had just left the Boston Celtics, and Wilt Chamberlain, though still effective, was then 33 years old. Alcindor's presence enabled the 1969–70 Bucks to claim second place in the NBA's Eastern Division with a 56-26 record (up from 27-55 the previous year), and he was an instant star, ranking second in the league in scoring (28.8 ppg) and third in rebounding (14.5 rpg), for which he was awarded the title of NBA Rookie of the Year.
With the addition of Oscar Robertson, known to sports fans as "the Big 'O'," Milwaukee went on to record the second-best record with 66 victories in 1970–71, including a then-record of 20 straight wins. Alcindor was awarded his first of six NBA Most Valuable Player Awards, along with his first scoring title (31.7 ppg). In the playoffs, the Bucks went 12-2 (including a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Bullets in the NBA Finals), won the championship, and Alcindor was named Finals MVP. On May 1, 1971, the day after the Bucks won the NBA championship, he adopted the Muslim name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, its Arabic translation roughly "generous (Kareem), servant of (Abdul) the mighty/stern one (Jabbar) [i.e., of God]."
Abdul-Jabbar remained a dominant force for Milwaukee, repeating as scoring champion (34.8 ppg) and NBA Most Valuable Player the following year, and helping the Bucks to repeat as division leaders for four straight years. In 1974, Abdul-Jabbar won his third MVP Award in five years and was among the top five NBA players in scoring (27.0 ppg, third), rebounding (14.5 rpg, fourth), blocked shots (283, second), and field goal percentage (.539, second).
While remaining relatively injury-free throughout his NBA career, Abdul-Jabbar twice broke his hand. The first time was during a pre-season game in 1974, when he was bumped hard and got his eye scratched, which angered him enough to punch the basket support stanchion. When he returned, after missing the first 16 games of the season, he started to wear protective goggles. The second time he broke his hand was in the opening game of the 1977–78 NBA season. Two minutes into the game, Abdul-Jabbar punched Milwaukee's Kent Benson in retaliation for an overly aggressive elbow. He was out for two months.
Although Abdul-Jabbar always spoke well of Milwaukee and its fans, he said that being in the Midwest did not fit his cultural needs and requested a trade to either New York or Los Angeles in October 1974.
 Los Angeles Lakers
A graffiti art depiction of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a Los Angeles Laker on the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall (2008)
In 1975, the Lakers acquired Abdul-Jabbar and reserve center Walt Wesley from the Bucks for center Elmore Smith, guard Brian Winters, and rookie "blue chippers" Dave Meyers and Junior Bridgeman. In the 1975-76 season, Abdul-Jabbar's first season with Los Angeles, he had a dominating season, averaging 27.7 points per game and leading the league in rebounding, blocked shots, and minutes played. His 1,111 defensive rebounds remains the NBA single-season record (defensive rebounds were not recorded prior to the 1973-74 season). Also it marked the last time anyone had 4,000 or more PRA (Points + Rebounds + Assists) in a single NBA season. He earned his fourth MVP award, but missed the post-season for the second straight season.
Once he joined the Lakers, Abdul-Jabbar began wearing his trademark goggles. Years of battling under NBA backboards, and being hit and scratched in the face in the process, had taken their toll on his eyes and he developed corneal erosion syndrome, where the eyes begin to dry out easily and cease to produce moisture. He once missed a game in the 1986-87 season due to his eyes drying out and swelling as a result.
In the 1976-77 season, Abdul-Jabbar had another strong season. He led the league in field goal percentage, finished second in rebounds and blocked shots, and third in points per game. He helped lead the Lakers to the best record in the NBA, and he won his record-tying fifth MVP award. In the playoffs, the Lakers beat the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference semi-finals, setting up a confrontation with the Portland Trail Blazers. The result was a memorable matchup, pitting Abdul-Jabbar against a young, injury-free Bill Walton. Although Abdul-Jabbar dominated the series statistically, Walton and the Trail Blazers (who were experiencing their first-ever run in the playoffs) swept the Lakers, behind Walton's skillful passing and leadership.
Abdul-Jabbar's play remained strong during the next two seasons, being named to the All-NBA Second Team twice, the All-Defense First Team once, and the All-Defense Second Team once. The Lakers, however, continued to be stymied in the playoffs, being eliminated by the Seattle SuperSonics in both 1978 and 1979.
In 1979, the Lakers acquired 1st overall draft pick Earvin "Magic" Johnson. The trade and draft paved the way for a second Abdul-Jabbar dynasty as the Lakers went on to become the most dominant team of the 1980s, appearing in the finals eight times and winning five NBA championships. Individually, while Abdul-Jabbar was not the dominant center he was in the 1970s, he experienced a number of highlight moments. Among them were his record sixth MVP award in 1980, four more All-NBA First Team designations, two more All-Defense First Team designations, the 1985 Finals MVP, and on April 5, 1984 breaking Wilt Chamberlain's record for career points. Later in his career, he bulked up to about 265 pounds, to be able to withstand the strain of playing the highly physical center position into his early 40s.
While in L.A., Abdul-Jabbar started doing yoga in 1976 to improve his flexibility, and was notable for his physical fitness regimen.
In 1983, Abdul-Jabbar's house burnt down, incinerating many of his belongings including his beloved jazz LP collection. Many Lakers fans sent and brought him albums, which he found uplifting.
On June 28, 1989, after twenty professional seasons, Abdul-Jabbar announced his retirement. On his "retirement tour" he received standing ovations at all the games, home and away. In his biography My Life, Magic Johnson recalls that in Abdul-Jabbar's farewell game, many Lakers and Celtics legends participated. Every player wore Abdul-Jabbar's trademark goggles and had to try a sky hook at least once, which led to comic results. The Lakers made the NBA Finals in each of Abdul-Jabbar's final three seasons, defeating Boston in 1987, and Detroit in 1988. The Lakers lost, however, to the Pistons in a four-game sweep in his final season. In his final season every NBA team gave him presents ranging from a yacht that said "Captain Skyhook" to framed jerseys
from his basketball career to an Afghan rug.
At the time of his retirement, Jabbar held the record for most games played by a single player in the NBA; this would later be broken by Robert Parish.