HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We don’t need a specific date or even a time and place we need to be when it happens, just the news that the Los Angeles Lakers plan to unveil a statue for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at some point during the 2012-13 season (per The Los Angeles Times) is enough for us here at the hideout.
This notion that Abdul-Jabbar is being thrown a bone by the Lakers to pacify him or to quiet him, after years of public rancor between the two sides and other outside observers, is for someone else to argue.
We’re focused solely on the fact that he remains the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and should be prominently featured in any historical basketball text as the greatest big man and arguably the greatest player of all time.
We have no problem with the Lakers honoring others ahead of Abdul-Jabbar. Magic Johnson, Chick Hearn and Jerry West deserve whatever praise and hardware comes their way in Los Angeles. Whatever they do for Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal will be well-deserved as well. But if they want to make sure Star Plaza at Staples Center is legitimate, Abdul-Jabbar must be a part of the montage.
We are talking about a man who played 14 of his 20 NBA seasons with the Lakers before retiring in 1989. He also spent four years in Los Angeles before entering the NBA, leading UCLA to three straight NCAA titles (the school could have beaten the Lakers to the punch and come up with some way of honoring their greatest hoops legend by now, but that’s a conversation for another time).
As The Times story points out, things haven’t always been smooth between Abdul-Jabbar and the Lakers in recent years:
Abdul-Jabbar publicly criticized the Lakers last year, saying the failure to erect a statue of him sooner was a show of disrespect. His contract as a special assistant coach ran out in 2011 and he voiced various complaints: He had been asked to take a pay cut, the Lakers had not awarded him playoff shares as a coach, and he cited his reduced role as a coach for Andrew Bynum from 2005 to 2009.
The Lakers have attributed Abdul-Jabbar’s reduced pay and role to Bynum’s belief that he didn’t need as much personal instruction. Team officials also noted that they give autonomy to head coaches in hiring their assistants, and that players allocate playoff shares at their discretion.
… AEG, which owns Staples Center, plays a larger role in determining who is honored with a statue at the venue; other athletes with statues include boxer Oscar De La Hoya and former Kings great Wayne Gretzky.
In an interview with The Times two years ago, Lakers Executive Vice President Jeanie Buss indicated that honoring Abdul-Jabbar next with a statue would be a “natural fit.”
Said Buss: “Certainly Kareem stands among some of the greatest of all time.”
He certainly does.
And soon enough, his statue will do the same.
It’s a long overdue honor for a player some would argue is truly the greatest of all-time!