If you were a basketball fan in the 80s, like I was, you probably remember well the brilliance of the Los Angeles Lakers. It was quite thrilling to watch them go through the playoffs year after year, and even though the Knicks held my main loyalty, I liked rooting for the Lakers, especially when they went up against their great rivals, the Boston Celtics. Magic Johnson was the face of the team during those championship years and an undisputed megastar, but there was another who was pivotal to the team's success - someone who'd been a superstar in his own right long before he put on the purple and gold of the Lakers.
The numbers tell the story of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and they speak volumes: 19-time All-Star; six-time MVP; member of six NBA championship teams, five with the Lakers and one with his previous team, the Milwaukee Bucks; two-time NBA Finals MVP; and still the NBA leader in points scored. Over the years, he parlayed his success on the basketball court into other avenues: he is the author of a number of books on a wide variety of subjects, and he was named a cultural ambassador for the US by Hillary Clinton, when she was Secretary of State.
|Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a Los Angeles Laker|
During his college years, he met someone who would become an influential figure in his life: martial artist and actor Bruce Lee. Under him, KAJ studied Jeet Kune Do. He described their relationship in a 2002 Lawrence Journal-World article:
We were friends. I trained with him. We hung out. We talked philosophy. He learned about different issues having to do with the civil rights movement, which he didn't know much about. He didn't really understand the background of it. He understood that blacks had a lot in terms of issues, but he didn't know why. I was able to explain it to him.
|KAJ with Bruce Lee in Game of Death|
KAJ played one of several villains Lee must face within different levels of a pagoda. In an interview with the site Jeet Kune Do Library, he talked about working with Lee:
...I was not nervous but I did feel the pressure to perform - acting wise. We were making money and had to make it work. Since I had no lines we managed a good scene. It was my first full-length movie.... I thought Bruce was a superb actor. He had been acting since he was a child. His father was in the Cantonese Opera and that is how Bruce was born in San Francisco and that is also how he got into show business.
|KAJ in Airplane!|
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's basketball feats are the stuff of legend, but when added to his accomplishments outside the sporting world, he has become a true renaissance man, and an inspiration to many.
Films with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar:
Game of Death