Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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Basketball player
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2014)
Player information
Nickname Cap
birthday 16th April 1947 (age 73)
place of birth New York City , New York , United States
size 218 cm
Weight 102 kg
position center
college UCLA
NBA draft 1969, 1st pick, Milwaukee Bucks
Jersey number 33
Clubs as active
1969-1975 United StatesUnited States Milwaukee Bucks
1975-1989 United StatesUnited States Los Angeles Lakers

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (born April 16, 1947 in New York City , New York as Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. ) is a retired American basketball player . Between 1969 and 1989 he played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers .

The list of awards given to him is one of the most extensive of all NBA players: six times NBA champions, including two MVPs in the finals , six times MVPs in the regular season, ten times All-NBA-First-Team , five times All-NBA-Defensive-First- Team , 19-time record all-star . When he retired, he was at the top of nine NBA statistics: most points ever (38,387), seasons played (20), points scored in the playoffs (5,762), MVP nomination (6 times), Minutes played (57,446), played games at all (1,560), attempted throws and scored hits (15,837 of 28,307), and blocked throws (3,189). For his leadership skills, he earned the nickname Cap , the short form of Captain (Eng. "Captain").

Abdul-Jabbar was honored as a player in 1995 when he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and was named one of the 50 best players in NBA history the following year . In 2016, President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom .


Youth and High School (1961-1965)

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Junior in 1947 to Lew Sr. and Cora Alcindor at Sydenham Hospital in Harlem , New York City . Lew was 1.72 m tall at the age of nine. In eighth grade, he was already 2.04 m and easily managed a slam dunk . High school coaches across New York noticed his talent, and so he was offered scholarships from private high schools. He chose the Power Memorial Academy in 1961 .

In his first year, Lew Alcindor was one of the best players in New York, a city rich in basketball talent. In the 1961/62 season he met with his team at Linton High School from Schenectady , New York. Power Memorial lost 68:74, and the best player of the opponents was Pat Riley , who would later become Abdul-Jabbar's coach at the Lakers. As a sophomore , Abdul-Jabbar enjoyed almost nationwide fame. After a season with 19 points and 18 rebounds per game, Abdul-Jabbar was appointed to the All-American team of Parade Magazine, the first sophomore ever.

Thanks to Abdul-Jabbar, Power Memorial won the New York State Championship in 1962. The following year the team remained unbeaten, and Abdul-Jabbar achieved the popularity of an NBA player. He met Wilt Chamberlain at a tournament in New York's Rucker Park , and they both became close friends. Power Memorial, meanwhile, also won the 1963 State Championship with no problems.

In January 1965, Power Memorial had already won 71 games in a row. The last defeat was over two years ago. Since they met on 31 January 1965 at Cole Field House of the University of Maryland on the DeMatha High School, and the unbelievable happened: Power Memorial defeated with 43:46. The game, which filled front pages nationwide, is considered by many to be the greatest game in high school basketball history. DeMatha's coach, Morgan Wootten , was later named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame .

Despite losing to DeMatha, Power Memorial also won the 1965 State Championship. Abdul-Jabbar then selected a college from among hundreds of scholarships offered . He chose the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) after a former star player of the university (Jackie Robinson) asked him several times, and after a visit to the campus, where Abdul-Jabbar was particularly fascinated by coach John Wooden was. Abdul-Jabbar finished his high school career with a total of 2,067 points and 2002 rebounds (both New York records). He is considered one of the greatest high school basketball players.

College (1965-1969)

Lew Alcindor in 1967 in the UCLA Bruins jersey

At the time Abdul-Jabbar started at UCLA, college freshmen were n't allowed to play for college selection ( Varsity ). Abdul-Jabbar therefore played in the so-called Junior Varsity (JV, in German about youth selection) in the 1965/66 season . In a JV game against the “real” UCLA team, Abdul-Jabbar's team won 75:60, and that was completely surprising, as UCLA was the reigning college champion at the time.

From the second year, Abdul-Jabbar played for the "right" team at UCLA. Considered by some to be the best in college basketball history, the team remained undefeated all year long and confidently won the championship, while Abdul-Jabbar was voted best player in the country. The NCAA feared that the Abdul-Jabbar center would dominate too much and in 1967 banned slam dunk in the game. Abdul-Jabbar but turned the situation to his advantage, and gained a new throwing technique of the " hook throw " (English. Hook shot ). This throw is very difficult to prevent due to the high movement of the arm and was a reason for Abdul-Jabbar's dominance in the following years.

However, in his junior year, UCLA had a strong competitor, the University of Houston , with star player Elvin Hayes . On January 20, 1968, both teams (until then unbeaten) met in the Houston Astrodome, which was sold out with over 52,000 spectators . The game was broadcast live on TV for the first time in college basketball history . Abdul-Jabbar, who went into the game with an injury, was unable to support his team as usual and only scored 15 points. Driven by a brilliantly playing Elvin Hayes (39 points, 15 rebounds) Houston won 71:69.

Houston lost early in the NCAA tournament, however, and so UCLA again won the NCAA Division I Basketball Championship . However, the title of best player went to Elvin Hayes in 1968, who moved to the NBA after the season. In his 1968/69 senior season, Abdul-Jabbar was again unrivaled number 1 in college basketball, and so UCLA won its third title. Abdul-Jabbar ended his career with 2,325 points as the best thrower in UCLA history.

NBA (1969-1989)

Milwaukee Bucks (1969-1975)

Abdul-Jabbar started his professional career as the Grand Prize in the 1969 draft . The question of which team he would switch to was decided between the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks . The decision resulted in a coin toss, which was held at the time instead of the draft lottery that is common today . The Bucks were the winners. But Abdul-Jabbar's NBA career was not yet dry. The competition league ABA had suspended the draft rules in 1969 and granted the New York Nets the rights to Abdul-Jabbar, as Abdul-Jabbar's desire to return to his hometown was known. Abdul-Jabbar asked both teams to submit contract offers and then opted for the more lucrative offer from Milwaukee.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1974)

Abdul-Jabbar's rookie season was already very successful; with an average of 28.8 points and 14.5 rebounds per game, he was named Rookie of the Year . In 1970 the Bucks brought in Oscar Robertson , a commitment that would soon pay off. Because in the 1970/71 season, Abdul-Jabbar rose again and was voted the most valuable player in the NBA at the age of just 24 . In the playoffs, Abdul-Jabbars Bucks (who were still playing in the Western Conference at the time) beat the Lakers with Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain , as well as the Baltimore Bullets and won the first championship in team history. Alcindor was voted Most Valuable Player of the Finals .

In the following years, Abdul-Jabbars performance remained consistently first class, but a new title win with Milwaukee did not succeed. Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, who had meanwhile converted to Islam and had changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar , asked for a change in 1975 because he no longer felt comfortable in Wisconsin, which was then not very multicultural. The Bucks agreed and sounded out the offers for their Starcenter. Abdul-Jabbar was hoping for an offer from the New York Knicks. However, they showed no interest, and so he switched to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Los Angeles Lakers (1975-1989)

In both 1976 and 1977 Abdul-Jabbar was voted Most Valuable Player (MVP), but for a long time he did not win a championship title with the Lakers either. That changed when a young development player named Earvin "Magic" Johnson joined the Lakers in 1979 . With him as a congenial partner of Abdul-Jabbar, the Lakers made their first finals in eight years. In the final, they met the Philadelphia 76ers with Julius Erving and won 4-2.

After Abdul-Jabbar was named MVP of the NBA Finals Series in 1985, Sports Illustrated named the 38-year-old Athlete of the Year . Abdul-Jabbar remained the Lakers' most important player for another year, then his old age took a toll. In the championships of 1987 and 1988 Magic Johnson had become the main player. In his last season, 1988/89 , Abdul-Jabbar was elected to the All-Star Game again at the age of 41, as the oldest player ever. After the lost finals against the Detroit Pistons , Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ended his career in 1989 with five championships for the Lakers and one for the Bucks.


  • 1,560 games in the regular season (1969–1989)
  • 38,387 points (24.6 average; NBA player with the most points ) and 17,440 rebounds (11.20) in the regular season (1969–1989)
  • 237 games in the play-offs
  • 5,762 points and 2,481 rebounds in the play-offs
  • 19 all-star games
  • 36 home wins in a row against the Kings (1975-1989). The series ended with his resignation.

Assistant coach

In September 2005, 58-year-old Abdul-Jabbar returned to the LA Lakers as an assistant coach alongside Phil Jackson . Prior to that, he worked as a coach assistant for the Los Angeles Clippers and as a talent scout for the New York Knicks in 1999/2000 .

Conversion and Religious Practice

Political mindset and understanding of Islam

Abdul-Jabbar's relationship with the street was rather distant. He only got to know Harlem when he took part in a project for gifted young people there in 1964. As a young reporter, he asked the residents of the district about their assessments of chaos and police violence. In this context he also attended a press conference by Martin Luther King, Jr, but he quickly developed an acceptance of much more radical political concepts. Civil rights activist Malcolm X also had a great influence on Alcindor . For him, the Muslim activist was the only one who could give a credible perspective on the oppression of black Americans. According to Alcindor, he could only achieve this perspective through his Muslim thinking. Abdul-Jabbar shied away from publicly showing his religious and political beliefs. However, he stated that his personal, religious focus was more on the Creator than on the dogmas of religion and that his children can choose their own religion. He thereby emphasized the liberal attitude of his understanding of religion.

Conversion of Lewis Alcindor and influence through Hamaas Abdul Khaalis from 1968

A friend of his father's, Hamaas Abdul Khaalis , was to be an influence on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for a long time. Because of his membership in the Nation of Islam and bizarre letters to the then US President John F. Kennedy, he was quickly observed by the FBI. In 1958 he left the Nation of Islam in order to found his own Hanafi teaching school, the "Hanafi Muslims" , in the USA . However, he adapted their teachings and beliefs to his own, which gave them a sect-like character and their members consisted exclusively of African American. You should embody the American ideal. In 1968 he sought contact with Lewis Alcindor.

Jabbar developed a very critical attitude towards the Nation of Islam. He viewed their teachings as contradicting those of the Prophet Mohammed. At the same time, Islam was a universal religion for him. Alcindor saw in Khaalis a figure of authority who gave him the opportunity to practice his religion in a country whose culture for him was apparently dominated by sex, alcohol and racism. Alcindor took lessons from Khaalis, and before leaving for his senior year at the University of California, he shaved his head, armpits and pubic hair in accordance with a hadith Khaalis insisted, before pronouncing his Shahadah again . Khaalis then renamed him Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which means something like "The servant of the Almighty". However, his parents did not like this change of name, as there was no longer anyone who passed on the family name.

Khaalis later decided for Abdul-Jabbar that he should marry a female member of his sect, Janice Brown, which he renamed Habiba. Although Kareem had another wife, Pam Grier , with whom he was in love, she ultimately refused to convert to Islam because in her eyes women should be submissive to Islam. Abdul-Jabbar decided to remain true to his religious beliefs and married Habiba.

Ultimately, Abdul-Jabbar's conversion to Islam not only shaped his own political awareness as a basketball player, it also changed the general understanding of Islam in the United States. For many conservatives in the sport, Abdul-Jabbar's religion has highlighted his otherness. Islam brought personal peace to Abdul-Jabbar and increased his racial pride. He also became the most prominent face of classical Islam in the United States during the early 1970s, when he represented the religion as peaceful, patriotic, and universal.

Turning away from Khaali's teachings and attacking Hanafi Muslims in Washington in 1973

But over time, Abdul-Jabbar realized that Khaalis had a personality cult. When he and Habiba had their first child in 1972, Khaalis insisted on naming them too. After studying Arabic at Harvard University that summer, Abdul-Jabbar knew that neither the Quran nor any hadith legitimized the specific teachings of Khaali's greetings and rituals. When he settled in north Milwaukee in 1971-72, he visited the Hanafi Muslims in Washington several times. In 1973 the Hanafi Muslim massacre took place there. It was triggered by Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, who sent letters to Nation of Islam mosques across the country accusing the sect of perverting Islam and spreading racial hatred. In response, on January 18, 1973, armed men searched the Hanafi house and murdered seven people, including five children.


Abdul-Jabbar in September 2011

In addition to his great sports career, Abdul-Jabbar was also a source of discussion off the pitch. Although he was already famous in his college days and excelled on the college team, he was extensively involved in history, especially the younger US and jazz .

He wrote several books and made guest appearances in several films. He probably had his best-known role in 1980 in the film The unbelievable journey in a crazy airplane (original title: "Airplane!"). He also had a guest appearance as himself in the sitcom Full House , as well as in the series New Girl (season 1, episode 20), Scrubs , in The Prince of Bel-Air in the episode "Close Encounters" (season 5, episode 6 ) and in The Simpsons (season 22, episode 17). As an opponent of Bruce Lee , he played with him in his last, unfinished film Bruce Lee - My last fight (original title "Game of Death", 1973/78). There he was Lee's penultimate opponent in a five-story pagoda. He also had an appearance in the mini role of the "monster screamer" in Stephen King's The Stand - The Last Stand (original title "The Stand", USA, 1993). He can also be seen as a pixel version in the computer game Kung-Fu Master . In 2019 KAJ made a guest appearance on one of the most successful sitcoms of all time: he played the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons together with William Shatner , Kevin Smith and Joe Manganiello in The Big Bang Theory .

Abdul-Jabbar was very interested in religious questions. In 1968 he decided not to take part in the Olympic Games , but not to protest against the discrimination against blacks in the USA, as he claimed after criticizing his decision, but to concentrate on his college degree. But he insisted on rejecting the supposed honor of representing a white USA on the basis of his skin color. He changed his name from Alcindor to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1971, after he left the Catholic Church in 1968 and converted to Islam . His idol, as he often said, was Malcolm X .

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is considered one of the most successful and well-known basketball players (especially with the Los Angeles Lakers). He also serves as a role model for many black people because he has received many awards for his books and his involvement outside of sports.

On November 10, 2009 it was announced that Abdul-Jabbar had a rare form of leukemia . He recovered from the disease but had to undergo bypass surgery in 2015 .

One of the books he wrote with Raymond Obstfeld was On the Shoulders of Giants. My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance from 2007. It tells the story of the New York Rens basketball team and the Harlem Renaissance Ballroom. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was also the producer of the documentary film of the same name.

In 2015, Abdul-Jabbar published a novel called Mycroft Holmes about the brother of the same name of the famous fictional character Sherlock Holmes . Here he lets Mycroft Holmes search for a slave owner in Trinidad and Tobago . Abdul-Jabbar has been a long-time fan of Arthur Conan Doyle's work .


Abdul-Jabbar chose his jersey number 33 as a homage to American football player Mel Triplett , who was a running back for the New York Giants in the late 1950s , who also wore this number and was also his favorite player.


  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Peter Knobler: Giant Steps. The Autobiography of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bantam Books, New York 1984. ISBN 0-553-27147-4
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Kareem. Warner Books, New York 1990. ISBN 0-446-35218-7

See also


Web links

Commons : Kareem Abdul-Jabbar  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In: nba.com. Retrieved May 21, 2020 (English).
  2. ^ All Time Leaders. In: nba.com. Retrieved May 21, 2020 (English).
  3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar , basketball-reference.com
  4. ^ The White House: President Obama Names Recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. November 16, 2016, accessed November 22, 2016 .
  5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Biography (1947-). Retrieved April 16, 2020 .
  6. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Retrieved April 16, 2020 (American English).
  7. ^ Internet Archive: The New Encyclopaedia Britannica . Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 2010 ( archive.org [accessed April 16, 2020]).
  8. Archives | The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved April 16, 2020 (American English).
  9. Robert Lipsyte: Sportsworld: dreamland at American . ISBN 978-0-8135-9323-4 ( worldcat.org [accessed April 2, 2020]).
  10. ^ Jocelyne Cesari: Encyclopedia of Islam in the United States . Greenwood Press, 2012, ISBN 978-1-78034-532-1 ( worldcat.org [accessed April 2, 2020]).
  11. Aram Goudsouzian: From Lew Alcindor to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Race, Religion, and Representation in Basketball, 1968–1975 . In: Journal of American Studies . tape 51 , no. 2 , May 10, 2016, ISSN  0021-8758 , p. 437-470 , doi : 10.1017 / s0021875816000621 .
  12. ^ Sanford, William R. (William Reynolds), 1927-: Sports immortals . Crestwood House, 1992 ( worldcat.org [accessed April 2, 2020] ongoing).
  13. Aram Goudsouzian: From Lew Alcindor to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Race, Religion, and Representation in Basketball, 1968–1975 . In: Journal of American Studies . tape 51 , no. 2 , May 10, 2016, ISSN  0021-8758 , p. 437-470 , doi : 10.1017 / s0021875816000621 .
  14. Christoph Ribbat: Basketball. A cultural story . Munich, 2013: Wilhelm Fink-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7705-5599-4 .
  15. Abdul-Jabbar is fighting against leukemia
  16. ^ Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has bypass surgery , NBA.com
  17. ^ Robert Siegel: The Harlem Renaissance, On and Off the Court (including excerpt from the book). On: NPR website; Washington, DC, January 30, 2007. Retrieved July 29, 2017 (in English).
  18. (AP agency report): Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Telling The Story Of The Harlem Renaissance. On: CBS Local website; New York, April 3, 2011. Retrieved July 29, 2017 (in English).
  19. ^ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on His 45-Year Obsession with Sherlock Holmes , esquire.com
  20. Talking with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Part II. The Los Angeles Times, accessed December 26, 2017 .