When etching a Mount Rushmore of basketball players, don't play yourself and leave Kareem Abdul-Jabbar off the list.
The Hall of Fame center accomplished everything imaginable in the NBA from winning six championships to being a two-time Finals MVP, six-time league MVP and garnering 19 All-Star Game appearances over the course of being the first NBA player to ever play 20 seasons. His 38,387 points that he left the game with in 1989 still have him sitting atop the NBA's all-time leading scoring list.
But what made Abdul-Jabbar equally great was his willingness to take a stand off the court and use his voice to wield influence — something he continues to do to this day.
His life story — on and off the court — was shown to a packed crowd in New York City on Monday night via a screening for his HBO documentary, Minority of One. Current NBA commissioner Adam Silver, former commissioner David Stern and fellow Hall of Famer Walt 'Clyde' Frazier were among the attendees at One Time Warner Center for the screening.
The actual documentary features everyone from his former Los Angeles Lakers teammates Magic Johnson and James Worthy and coach Pat Riley to Billy Crystal and Arsenio Hall, as they all explained what made Abdul-Jabbar the great basketball player he was and the better man.
The documentary does a great job touching on his vast social influence and activity just as much as his basketball dominance. From being a curious teenager who took a New York City train uptown to 125th Street to witness the Harlem race riots of 1964 to standing by Muhammad Ali's decision to refuse to be drafted into the U.S. Army. The bond between the iconic athletes was marked by one monumental moment when Abdul-Jabbar was front and center at the boxing legend's famed athlete summit of 1967 in Cleveland. Abdul-Jabbar was there for many historical moments during the civil rights movement. He was brave enough to protest the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968 and even boycotted the Summer Olympics that same year over the unfair treatment of African-Americans.
It's no surprise that Hillary Clinton even named him a U.S. Global Cultural Ambassador in 2012 and, as the author of 11 books, TIME gave him his own column.
Of course, Minority Of One spells out the scope of Abdul-Jabbar's dominance on the court, too, whether it was the NCAA banning the dunk after 1967 — something the Hall of Famer still wonders if it had a "racial element" to it — and his signature Sky Hook shot, which Johnson calls the "prettiest shot I've ever seen in my life," Bird says "you can't guard it" and Riley dubs the "most-unstoppable weapon in the history of the NBA."
The documentary takes viewers on a journey of each of his three NCAA championships with UCLA and NBA title reigns with the Milwaukee Bucks and Lakers. It also has Abdul-Jabbar recounting candid tales about his friendship with Bruce Lee and onetime idol-turned-nemesis Wilt Chamberlain.
Minority of One is set to air on HBO on November 3 at 10 p.m.
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(Photo: Brad Barket/Getty Images)
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