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The Lakers player who deserves the same tribute as Bill Russell

By James Brown

The Lakers player who deserves the same tribute as Bill Russell

His legacy goes beyond the court  

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On Thursday, August 11, the NBA announced that the number 6 would be retired on all NBA teams in honor of the recently deceased (July 22) Bill Russell. The Boston Celtics legend marked an era in the NBA. Beyond Bill Russell's impressive numbers (11 championships, 5 MVPs, 12 all-stars, 3 times best team in the NBA, and one-time DPOY) his legacy went far beyond that. His fight against racism and segregation was the best thing he could have done in his life.  He was the first black player to achieve NBA superstar status and was also the first African-American coach in NBA history. His life was very similar to Jackie Robinson's life.

But there is another player who had the same impact both on and off the court and his name is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Lew Alcindor, the name his parents gave him at birth, quickly became an NBA superstar. Since high school, he had already shown great qualities, qualities that he would later put into play when he got his first ring (with the then young Milwaukee Bucks) out of 6 and becoming the leading scorer in NBA history.

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Kareem was very aware of the reality of the world we live in from a very young age. The injustices, the racism, the xenophobia, the hate, all this was shaping the mentality of Kareem who understood quickly that things had to change. The "sky hook" was part of several action movements and joined the summer program of the HARYOU (Harlem Youth Action Project), a public program of action against poverty. Kareem was also influenced by great men like MLK (with whom he participated in programs against racism) and Muhammad Ali.

There are few players who can eat at Bill Russell's table, and not because of talent but because of the impact they had off the court, and the legacy they left beyond basketball. Kareem is one of them. The day he leaves this world his name will remain in golden letters for what he did against discrimination at a time when it was even more complicated to be African-American. Maybe the only one who can join Kareem and Bill Russell on that list is Magic Johnson but time will tell.

Becoming Kareem

Many would think that the decision to change his name from Lewis Alcindor to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was inspired by Muhammad Ali. But the reality is that the reason was none other than his transformation to Islam, after being educated in Catholicism throughout his childhood. Lew Alcindor was left behind and paved the way for one of the greatest legends both on and off the court; the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had a special meaning in Islam: "Noble and servant of the mighty".

 

 


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