At Long Last Kareem Up On Pedestal

 

HANG TIME, Texas — Would there be any way in the world it would seem right if our nation’s capital was named for anyone but George Washington?

Fillmore, D.C.? Polk, D.C.? Nixon, D.C.?

Thus, it was equally preposterous that the array of statues outside Staples Center should for all these years have been missing the most logical and deserving subject:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — first in goggles, first in skyhooks, first on the all-time NBA scoring list with 38,387 points.

The egregious omission was finally rectified on when a 16-foot, 1,500-pound statue in the classic skyhook pose was unveiled on Friday night.

Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times was on hand to describe the occasion:

“I’m glad we got here before the pigeons got to it,” he said, drawing laughter from an array of former NBA players, executives, family and friends.

“I don’t know if you remember, but I had a little too much to say that it hadn’t happened right away. But they were patient with me,” he said after pulling a gold tassel that removed a curtain and unveiled the statue created by sculptors/artists Julie Rotblatt Amrany and Omri Amrany.

Abdul-Jabbar became the sixth Los Angeles sports figure to be remembered with a statue outside the arena, joining hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, boxer Oscar De La Hoya, basketball Hall of Famers Jerry West and Magic Johnson, and longtime Lakers announcer Chick Hearn.

Johnson was among the speakers during a ceremony that featured key figures from Abdul-Jabbar’s childhood, his days in Milwaukee, and his Lakers years. All of them emphasized Abdul-Jabbar’s leadership, great athletic skills and intellectual curiosity.

“You should have had the first statue,” Johnson told the crowd. “It was on your back that we’re here at Staples Center.”

Yes, it is true that Abdul-Jabbar could be prickly and downright aloof at times during his long playing career in Milwaukee and L.A. But he is the only six-time winner of the MVP award in NBA history and also set records at the time for games played, total minutes, field goals, blocked shots, defensive rebounds and fouls.

While the Lakers did not finally leap up to become the league’s most prominent franchise until the arrival of Magic in the 1979-80 season, it was always Abdul-Jabbar providing the tent post in the middle that held up the “Showtime” circus that won five championships in the 1980s.

It is not in any way to discredit the likes of Johnson, West, Hearn, Gretzky or De La Hoya, who had all previously been honored with their own statues.

But it is finally fit that the man who literally stands taller than them all has at last been rightfully placed on his own pedestal.

16 Comments

  1. AJ says:

    Kareem is my all-time favorite athlete. He played better for longer than anyone else in NBA history. He was not the easiest person to get along with, and has paid a price for that. Magic’s speech was both correct and extremely generous. Most great players would not make the admission he did.Having said that it was a wonderful day for Kareem and for the Lakers.

  2. Marco29 says:

    It is about time. Why did LAL organization wait for so long? It is so obvious that Kareem is part of the best players and athletes of all times. Like Duncan, he is the anchor of the titles during the 80′s. Respect.

  3. 16going417 says:

    This is WAY overdue. I mean even Chick Hearn got a statue before Kareem. Chick Hearn was great at his job, but last time I checked Chick did not score any baskets for the Lakers and he did not win any championships for the Lakers either.

    Thank you Kareem, not only for what you did for the Lakers, but what you did for the league!!!! Congrats Kareem. WAY over due and more than well deserved.

  4. HeyHey says:

    Kobe Next

  5. bigwes95 says:

    best of all-time

  6. van Muang says:

    I love Karrem. He is the best of the best. David Stern wanted Magic+Bird+Jordan. Without Karrem no Magic. The reason he become the statue too late is Magic Johnson. He wanted ..alone the spootlight. He is a bad friend : Karrem is like Tim Duncan. One of the best of alltime. You are my hero. A piston for life. GO PISTONS GO

  7. charles says:

    Well deserved Kareem. COngrats!

  8. Griffin #71 says:

    It’s about time. He should have had one before Magic. Now Elgin Baylor needs one

  9. jose machado says:

    i think, for all that he represents in this sport, and to laker fans, too late, but in the end everything finishes well, the MAN has already his statue with the skyhook, the statue it´s awesome.

  10. Kobe84 says:

    I first saw Lew Alcindor, beating the UCLA Varsity as a Freshman. I think he got 71. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the best all around center in the history of college and professional basketball! A terrific John Wooden protege! A Superb human being! Long time coming, a tribute well deserved! Congratulations Kareem! I wish you the best the Earth can offer!
    God Bless you!

  11. GORAPTORS1957 says:

    good job man

  12. Laker Fan says:

    long overdue

  13. Amro says:

    Love Kareem!

  14. Willy says:

    I saw The man first play in Milwaukee with the Big O! 1971 I think, too long ago! Sat close to court side with my Dad, what a great time. I was 12 at the time, loved the game then and still love it today. I still remember the Big O and Lew back then. They were the best together, rookie and seasoned Vet, a few other greats as well on the linen up. Anyway, you can’t keep the press happy your whole career but who should care anyway? He has motivated and inspired so many great athletes to follow in his foot steps. He was not the flash player that everyone remembers but just constantly there. Obviously no one could guard him or he would not be where he is today. A soft spoken man doesn’t get as much respect in the world today. Well done Kareem! Magic is correct a bit late, but I don’t think it is that large of a concern to you as it might be to Shaquille in 15 years when they build his statue.

  15. shaq kobe says:

    well deserved

  16. Mike says:

    About Time!