Snapshots from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s statue unveiling…
4:36 p.m. Among the guests here at Star Plaza outside Staples Center for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s statue unveiling: James Worthy, Michael Cooper, Bill Walton, Julius Erving, Jeanie Buss and Stu Lantz…
4:38 p.m. Ceremony starts. Lakers broadcaster Stu Lantz introduces the speakers including Magic Johnson, but he doesn’t show right away …. AC Green and Kurt Rambis are also here….Lantz jokes Magic is “stuck in pedestrian traffic.
4:41 p.m. – Magic Johnson arrives. Among the other speakers: Jerry West, Pat Riley, Tim Lieweke, Eddie Doucette, The man of the hour, the man of the day, the man of the year, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Gets a loud round of applause. Sits next to Magic.
4:45 p.m. – The Lakers display a video tribute of Abdul-Jabbar narrated by Bob Costas. Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson & Worthy all watching tribute video intently. Jerry West & Pat Riley engaged in conversation. 4:48 – Tim Lieweke of AEG is the first speaker: “Don’t worry. Farmer’s Field is coming, I promise.” Tells Kareem that “everything comes by you first” since his statue will be centered at the front of Staples Center.
4:50 p.m. Bill Clinton has a video tribute for Kareem. “You have been a real symbol of strength and exemplary role model for our children, encouraging them to stay in school and follow your dreams.
4:52 Former Lakers coach Pat Riley speaks. “Showtime was a beautiful name. It was a marketing name. Dr. Jerry Buss loved what Showtime was about. But Im going to tell you about Showtime. It wasn’t just about fun and games. That year we came together in 1979-80 and Magic was drafted out of Michigan State, that was one of the hardest working, most professional, nastiest and most disliked team in the period. If anyone is here from Boston, get over it.”
4:57 p.m. Riley recalls that Johnson ran off the bench when Kareem was about to break record: “If anybody is going to throw him the ball when he breaks this record, it will be me.”
4:59 p.m. Riley congratulates Abdul-Jabbar for receiving “a most deserved statue.”
5:02 p.m. Dr. Richard Lapchik, of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida, speaks about Abdul-Jabbar. Credits growing up with Abdul-Jabbar and learned more about racial & social issues.
Said Lapchik: “Kareem reminds me a smooth stone … Each place it stopped, a circle formed. Kareem is a guy who brings people together.”
5:07 p.m. NBA Commissioner David Stern has a taped message to Abdul-Jabbar. He congratulates him to his efforts on studying African American history and going public with his rare form of leukemia. Lakers fans initially boo Stern.
5:20 p.m. Jerry West on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: “Kareem was the most selfless super player that I’ve ever seen in my life.” Looks at Julius Erving: “If Jack Kent Cooke would be willing to spend $3 million, you’d play for the Lakers.” West also jokingly described Abdul-Jabbar as a “dirty” player.
5:28 p.m. James Worthy speaks. “When you first meet Kareem, you hear about his records … Then when you get to meet him, you expect the dominance of the skyhook and the dominant player. But what you get is a walking encyclopedia. You get a person who’s extremely conscious of his surroundings and willing to share those characteristics with you.” Worthy ends his tribute to Abdul-Jabbar this way: “”We love you man.”
5:32 p.m. Johnson speaks. “God is so good when you think about how incredible of an evening this is. I think Kareem loved me, but when I was drafted, he hated me. I had the room next to him when I was a rookie. I would wake up at 6 a.m. with a big boom box on my shoulder … He pulled me aside and said, Earvin, don’t ever cut that boom box on at 6 a.m.”
5:36 p.m. Abdul-Jabbar pulled rope to unveil statue. Of course, it shows Abdul-Jabbar wearing goggles shooting a skyhook. Said Johnson: “Look at this, man. This is beautiful. This is the real captain”
5:38 p.m. Abdul-Jabbar seems very appreciative. He thanks his parents, Pharell Hopkins (grade school coach), the late John Wooden, his teammates (Johnson, Worthy, Rambis, Green). Abdul-Jabbar thanks fans for asking him & praying for his recovery from rare form of leukemia.
“Lou Gehrig spoke about being the luckiest man in the world, and as a young person at that time I didn’t know what that meant,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “But having lived my life and having had the wonderful experiences that I’ve had in basketball, I can understand now what a man like Lou Gehrig meant. I get it. When you’re fortunate enough to be honored in this way, it’s a very humbling experience.”
He also apologized for criticizing the Lakers for not unveiling the statue sooner.
“I don’t know if you remember I had little too much to say about the fact it hadn’t happened right away,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “It got a little testy, but they were patient with me. They understood what was going on.”
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