Is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Legacy Ignored By The Los Angeles Lakers?
First of all, I know what many of you are thinking. Yes, I am a Los Angeles Lakers fan and yes I did find a way to write about them even though they were handily defeated by the Dallas Mavericks and forced to exit the playoffs. In the midst of a tumultuous season complete with rumors of tension between Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, as well as speculation that several personnel changes will be made during the offseason, there’s something else the Lakers have to address.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of the best players ever to grace the NBA, feels that the Lakers do not value him or what he has contributed on and off the court. He let this be known through what seems to be the universal communication medium for athletes (past and present), Twitter.
Ouch. It doesn’t take long to think about it as a sports fan, though, to realize that he may have a point. You hear and see so much more about Magic Johnson and Jerry West. They are much more celebrated former players who seem to get quite a bit more fanfare. Also, both are highly regarded members of the Lakers family, contributing to the team in other ways since leaving the court.
Abdul-Jabbar took a job on the Lakers’ coaching staff, working with Andrew Bynum to improve his game over the past few years. He contends the Lakers did not want him in this position, and only agreed because Bynum spoke up and said that he believed he could benefit from the expertise of the former all-star.
“If Andrew hadn’t said what he said, I wouldn’t have gotten a shot at it.”
Abdul-Jabbar was never truly hired as part of the coaching staff. He was only hired as a special assistant and was then asked to take a significant pay cut in order to help pay for coach Phil Jackson‘s raise.
On top of all of that, there’s the issue of this statue. Magic has one, as does Mr. Clutch. Where is Kareem’s? It hasn’t been erected yet, and someone’s getting tired of waiting.
“I don’t understand it. It’s either an oversight or they’re taking me for granted. I’m not going to try to read people’s minds, but it doesn’t make me happy. It’s definitely a slight.”
He later released a statement in which he said the following:
“I am highly offended by the total lack of acknowledgment of my contribution to Laker success. I guess being the linchpin for five world-championship teams is not considered significant enough in terms of being part of Laker history.”
While this does somewhat reek of an aging phenom desperately grasping for some sense of an honorable legacy, the man has a point. How do you fail to enshrine someone who has meant so much to an organization and its history? Even the late great Bruce Lee realized that Kareem was the truth.
The Lakers better realize it too and quiet the gentle giant before things get worse.