Authentic words of wisdom from ‘The Captain’
Abdul-Jabbar’s aloof facade, the one that froze out fans, reporters and just about everyone else, began melting about the time he started building a life outside basketball. Hard to believe, but he’s been Citizen Kareem for two years longer than the 20 seasons he broke almost every NBA record.
“How do you think I feel about it?” he said with a laugh.
He was 27 when he requested a trade to New York or Los Angeles so that he might enrich a personal life that revolved around jazz and his religion.
“It’s some time that I did some growing up,” he said of his six seasons with the Bucks. “When you get out of college, you think you’ve done everything when you haven’t done anything. A lot of fond memories. Great fans here.
“Geez, I remember my rookie year, we lost to the Knicks in five games in the conference finals. The team had chartered a plane to take us back from New York to Milwaukee. The plane sets down at 2-2:30 in the morning and we had 500 fans there at the airport. That’s pretty unique.
“My whole time here we had that kind of support. Management was great to me. There’s nothing even remotely remembering bitterness about my stay here. I had a good stay here. That will be my memory of being here.”
As a Muslim, Abdul-Jabbar has been outspoken about the death of Osama bin Laden. On his website, he wrote about his relief that a distinction was made between faith and “a righteous fight for peace. Bringing justice to a mass murderer is something that people of all faiths can understand and support.”
“The people who have become terrorists are basically fascists,” he told me. “They think they’re right and everybody else is wrong and that anyone who doesn’t agree with them is expendable.
“They’re scary. The easy way to understand it is like the Ku Klux Klan. They claim to be Christians, but they’re terrorists, plain and simple. And that’s what’s happening in the Islamic world, unfortunately.”
In 1968, he said he felt like the only Muslim in Milwaukee. Times change, but challenging times do not.
“You live your life and you have to make certain adjustments for reality, but it’s my moral anchor,” he said. “The difference between right and wrong is very clear. There are only two types of people in the world, good people and bad people. Once you understand that, you can get by and get along.”