NBA superstar and social justice activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar closes out the 2018 Winter Park Institute season.
This article originally appeared in Winter Park Magazine’s summer 2017 issue. It is republished here with permission.
As an NBA superstar, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar perfected an impossible-to-defend sky hook. As an author and social justice activist, he has written more than a dozen books and numerous op-eds for national publications.
Abdul-Jabbar played 20 seasons in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers, and is arguably the greatest ever to play the game.
During his career as a center, Abdul-Jabbar was a record six-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a record 19-time NBA All-Star. A member of six NBA championship teams as a player and two as an assistant coach, Abdul-Jabbar twice was voted NBA Finals Most Valuable Player and is the league’s all-time scoring leader with 38,387 points.
But if all you remember about Abdul-Jabbar was his impossible-to-defend sky hook, then you’ve somehow missed out on his long-standing commitment to social activism.
In the summer of 1968 while attending UCLA, he converted to Sunni Islam and later changed his name from Lew Alcindor. He boycotted the 1968 Summer Olympics in protest of racial prejudice.
Today, at age 70, Abdul-Jabbar might no longer be able to suit up and scorch an opposing team for 50 points, but his political commentary remains a slam dunk. His thought-provoking op-eds routinely appear in The Washington Post and Time magazine, among other national publications.
Abdul-Jabbar’s recent book, Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White (Time Books), is a bestseller that offers his perspective on social issues in an era of increased polarization. Abdul-Jabbar has written or co-written about a dozen books, many of them dealing with race.
But he has also written a novel, last summer’s Mycroft Holmes (Titan Books), about the adventures of Sherlock’s more savvy older brother. The thriller was adapted as a comic-book series.
In June, Abdul-Jabbar released Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court (Grand Central Publishing). It’s a poignant memoir about his enduring bond with UCLA head coach John Wooden.
Late last year, Abdul-Jabbar’s HBO Sports documentary, Kareem: Minority of One, debuted as the highest-rated sports documentary in the network’s history.
Abdul-Jabbar currently serves as chairman of his Skyhook Foundation, whose function is to “give kids a shot that can’t be blocked” by promoting STEM education in underserved communities. President Barack Obama presented Abdul-Jabbar with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.
Writings on the Wall: An Evening with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Wednesday, April 4, 7:30 p.m.
Warden Arena, Harold & Ted Alfond Sports Center
Ticket prices: $15-$50
Rollins faculty, staff, and students receive free admission to Winter Park Institute events. Faculty and staff members can request two free tickets, and Rollins students can request one free ticket. To reserve your tickets, contact the Rollins box office at BoxOffice@rollins.edu or 407-646-2145.