Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is perhaps the most dominant player in college basketball history. From 1967-69, he led UCLA to three consecutive national titles, won three consecutive Final Four Most Outstanding Player awards, and was named national college player of the year three times. He accomplished all of that while playing for John Wooden, who is considered by some the greatest coach in sports history.
Wooden, who died in 2010 at the age of 99, was raised in a different time and era and expected certain things from certain athletes. If he were still the coach at UCLA, there’s a good chance that Lonzo Ball wouldn’t have been a Bruin.
“No, it wouldn’t have happened because (Wooden) would have avoided (the Balls) like they were kryptonite,” Abdul-Jabbar said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “What’s (someone like LaVar Ball) going to do for your own peace of mind and for your program?”
Answer: not much.
To be fair, though, it was only for one season. Lonzo Ball, who played spectacular as a freshman, has entered the NBA Draft.
Abdul-Jabbar, 70, has been critical of the one-and-done rule, even calling it a “tragedy.”
“I think the one-and-done thing doesn’t work, and I think it’s unfortunate,” he said. “I hope that kids that do go to college are qualified academically and kids who aren’t, they shouldn’t be there.”
Abdul-Jabbar also weighed in one his status among the game’s all-time greats. Many people want to debate LeBron versus Michael, but perhaps they should be debating Michael versus Kareem or LeBron versus Kareem. After all, Abdul-Jabbar won six NBA titles, six NBA MVPs, two Finals MVPs, and is the all-time leading scorer in NBA history.
Shouldn’t Abdul-Jabbar be considered the greatest player of all time?
“Well, I think that I certainly should be in the conversation,” he said. “That’s up to people to decide. But I this what happens (is) people get captivated by style. When you have an incredible style like MJ or LeBron, who’s just an imposing physical presence and does things in such a dramatic, athletic way, you want to give more credit to that than for what you achieved. Sometimes people get it right; sometimes people get it wrong. I don’t worry about that. I just think you should consider all the criteria when you have that conversation.”
Abdul-Jabbar was also asked about social activism among professional athletes, most notably Colin Kaepernick. Abdul-Jabbar fully supports athletes taking a social stand, even if it comes with backlash.
“Well, I think that you’re going to get a backlash if you do something that turns people off,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Colin kind of had a chip on his shoulder, it seems. People are curious if that was the case, and that didn’t do him any good.”