A veteran of basketball, a celebrated sportsman, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the centrepiece of basketball success in the 20th century. A successful career which spanned several years, saw him emerged as one of the leading figures of the game. Though long retired, Kareem Abdul-Jabar is internationally recognized as one of the world-renowned basketball experts. His significant contribution to the game, as well as his inspiring defeat and bold disposition in the bitter face of defeat, has earned him accolades which has not only increased the respect and love basketball fans worldwide have for him, but also made his opinion of controversial games in the NBA, something many look forward to. Though Kareem Abdul-Jabar played basketball at a time where the hype of social media which help bring more attention was non-existent, his antics on the court was inspiring enough to make him the iconic figure he is today, here’s some fact about the thespian.
1. His birth name is Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s birth name is Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. He had a name change in 1971, at the age of 24. His current name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar means noble one, servant of the Almighty.
2. Kareem had been of unusual size from birth
Kareem weighed 12 lb (5 kg) and was 22.5 inches long at birth. His unusual size continued as at the age of nine, Kareem was already 5 ft 8 inches. When Kareem was in his eighth grade, he could slam dunk, having reached a height of 6 ft 8 in.
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was an only child.
He was the only child born to his parents. His father, Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Sr, worked as a transit police officer as well as a jazz musician, while his mother, Cora Lillian, worked in a shop as a departmental store price checker.
4. Kareem was nicknamed The Tower from Power.
After he led his high school, Power Memorial Academy, to three consecutive New York City Catholic championships, as well as a 71 successive win streak, he was nicknamed, “The Tower from Power”. Kareem went on to set a New York high school basketball record after he recorded 2,067, throughout his high school career.
5. Kareem identifies his origin as Yoruba.
Kareem said his father discovered when he was a kid that his great-grandfather’s parents were brought to the United States of America by a French planter named, Alcindor in the 18th century. He went in to recount that his people originates from the West African tribe Yoruba.
6. Kareem boycotted the 1968 summer Olympics
1968 was a significant year in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s history as he boycotted the 1968 summer Olympics in protest to the unfair and unequal treatment of African-Americans in the United States of America.
7. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won six NBA Championship
Kareem’s basketball career was indeed exceptional as he won six NBA Championship, his performance during his career made him the NBA all-time top scorer with 38,387. He also has six MVP to his name. Long after his retirement, ESPN in 2015, ranked him the best centre player in the history of the NBA and second in the best player in the NBA history.
8. Kareem has appeared in numerous movies
In 1972, Kareem made his acting debut in the late martial art, Bruce Lee movie, entitled, Game of Death. He also starred in the 1980 movie, Airplane where he was identified as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the movie. He also featured in television series such as Man from Atlantis, Everybody Loves Raymond, Amen, Full House, Scrubs and others. He has also appeared in documentaries such as the HBO documentary Kareem: Minority of One in 2015. In 2011, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar released his movie entitled On the Shoulders of Giants.
9. He has four children (two daughters and two sons)
Kareem has four children with ex-wife Janice Brown, who gave birth to three kids for him which includes two daughters, Habiba and Sultana and a male child, Kareem Jnr. He had another son, named Adam with Cheryl Pistono after he divorced his wife, Janice Brown in 1978.
10. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was diagnosed with Leukemia, cancer of the blood in 2008.
After he was diagnosed with cancer of the blood and bone marrow disease chronic myeloid leukaemia, in 2008, he announced it to the world in 2009. In 2011, Kareem announced that he was cancer-free but later said he had minimal cancer saying one can never be cancer-free. He is currently a spokesperson for the company that produces Gleevec (Imatinib), which Kareem uses for his illness.
11. Aside from cancer, Kareem has other health challenges.
Kareem’s health challenges include migraines, which he deals with, with cannabis. In 2015, Kareem had surgery after he was diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.
12. Kareem has served in political appointments
In 2012, Kareem accepted an offer to serve in the capacity as a cultural ambassador for the United States of America. President Obama appointed Kareem to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, and in 2018 he resigned from the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, which he was appointed to in 2017.
Kareem’s best selling 1983 autobiography entitled Giant Steps which he wrote alongside Peter Knobler is a tribute to jazz musician John Coltrane. He has written other books such as Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance.
14. Kareem has been a recipient of several honours
Kareem was honoured with an honorary degree by the New York Institute of Technology in 2011. He was honoured by ex-US President Barack Obama with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. He was also given the Double Helix Medal, for creating awareness about research in cancer in 2011.