Abdul-Jabbar recently spoke to our Donovan Dooley about why he fights for equality and has done so for over 50 years, which is what he’s primarily known for these days to a younger generation. As his era becomes increasingly removed from our stream of consciousness, people forget, or even never learn about, how dominant Abdul-Jabbar was as a player. A generation of kids have learned about 1970s and 1980s basketball because of historical teams on video games, which 2K has routinely included, as does NBA Live in their now infrequent releases. Translation: While many people have learned who he is, a probably small percentage of these same kids have even gone to YouTube to watch his games or highlights. Abdul-Jabbar’s pro career spanned from 1969 to 1989, so you’re working with a limited supply as is because of what you could obtain, unlike today, where literally every game is repurposed digitally in some form.
It’s a unique opportunity to introduce Abdul-Jabbar to the gaming world in a seismic, meaningful way. As Lew Alcindor, after being arguably the greatest high school basketball player ever (see video below), he was probably the most outstanding college player ever at UCLA and played for all four years because … that’s just what you did in the 1960s. In college, they had this thing called the freshman team, which plenty of high schools still have, but the mobilization of prep-to-pro and subsequent one-and-dones were decades away, meaning, no way in hell Abdul-Jabbar would’ve gone either path because it wasn’t really a thought. (Imagine, though.)
On the freshman team, he averaged 33.1 points and 21.5 rebounds per contest, per his basketball reference page. Across three varsity seasons, he posted 26.4 points and 15.5 rebounds per contest, and since blocks weren’t a thing yet, who the hell knows how many he would’ve accumulated. He was a three-time consensus All-American and three-time National Champion, winning three NCAA Tournament MVPs for John Wooden’s Bruins. He was the No. 1 overall pick in 1969, responsible for the Milwaukee Bucks’ most recent title from 1971, won five more with the Los Angeles Lakers from 1980 to 1988. Today, he still has the most career points at 38,387, which LeBron James has the best shot at surpassing at 35,367, but with injuries in recent years, the relatively soon-to-be 37-year-old’s record chase is in question.
As for Abdul-Jabbar, he turned 74 years old in April; let’s give him his flowers while we still can.