Kareem Abdul-Jabbar should be immortalized in the form of a statue in front of Staples Center, there’s no doubt about it. But his media blitz over the course of the last two days is absolutely the wrong way to go about getting it done. Magic Johnson, Jerry West and Chick Hearn made it ahead of him, and he should wait his turn. The Lakers have told him he will be next, but his tone-deaf campaign is the exact reason the others (plus hockey great Wayne Gretzky and boxer Oscar de la Hoya) have gone before him.
Great as he was, Abdul-Jabbar never got it as a player. He gave new meaning to the word “aloof” during his 20 seasons in the NBA. He was always described as “shy” or “introverted” as a player, first with the Milwaukee Bucks and then with the Lakers, but that’s being charitable. “Unpleasant” was another word for him.
Then, after he retired, he complained publicly about not getting a coaching gig in the NBA. The New York Knicks made him a scout and the Clippers hired him as an assistant to help tutor their big men. He didn’t last long in either job. The Lakers then hired him to mentor young center Andrew Bynum, but that association ran its course, too.
Now this, an undignified complaint that the Lakers have somehow disrespected him by not having him set in bronze or gold or Play-doh or whatever in front of a downtown building that’s overrun by skateboarders when there are no games being played. You have to wonder if these are his true feelings or whether he’s been coached into saying these things by some half-wit publicist or business manager.
Either way, it’s not the way.