"We accumulate our opinions at an age when our understanding is at its weakest." - Georg C. Lichtenberg
I’m not old enough to have watched Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor play basketball, but my ears work. And so do my eyes.
I’ve done everything I could I watch and read about the man who would become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I cheered for the Lakers’ Captain through the late ‘80’s, but didn’t really appreciate the player or the man until I was much older.
In my opinion, and I’m a certainly a nobody, Abdul-Jabbar is one of the most underrated players in the history of basketball. Maybe he doesn’t have 11 Championships, but he’s every bit as good as Bill Russell, if not better.
From Chuck Klosterman, at Grantland:
The fact that UCLA won the national title during all three seasons Alcindor played is merely the third-most interesting detail of his college career; the fact that the NCAA outlawed dunking due to his dominance is probably second.
But to me, the thing that will always be most unfathomable about Alcindor was his very first game, played when he was an ineligible freshman: UCLA was coming off back-to-back national championships. As an exhibition, the Bruin varsity — ranked no. 1 in the nation — opened the season by scrimmaging the freshmen team. Alcindor had 31 points, 21 boards, and eight blocks. The freshmen hammered the varsity by 15 points; the no. 1 team in the country could not beat a player who could not yet play. As an ineligible 18-year-old, Alcindor was (at worst) the fourth or fifth-best basketball player in the world.
Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant. Magic Johnson vs. Oscar Robertson. Shaq vs. Wilt. Many say you can’t compare these players. “They’re apples and oranges.” The best thing about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is he could have played in any era, against anyone, because of that beautiful, and equally deadly, sky hook.
Today’s players might be bigger, stronger and faster, but that sky hook stands the test of time. To the tune of 38,387 points.
Eyes and ears open, kids.