For the longest, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was not happy that the Los Angeles Lakers had not honored him with a statue outside their arena, as they had done for other greats. Saturday, Abdul-Jabbar was happy.
Unveiled was a majestic statue of the Hall of Fame center going into his famous “sky hook.” On hand for the occasion was a virtual who’s who in NBA lore: Pat Riley, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Elgin Baylor, Juilius Eriving, Bill Walton, Norm Nixon, Michael Cooper, etc.
Abdul-Jabbar, who won five championships with L.A. and broke the NBA’s all-time scoring mark as a Laker, was grateful for the moment.
“Even though we had some words over it earlier, they forgot about that, and my contributions to the franchise meant a lot to them,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “We were able to patch it up and get it done.”
Even hard-core Lakers fans/actors Jack Nicholson and Lo Gossett Jr. were present.
“I always kept my emotions inside,” he said. “But I’m retired now. I can be a cranky or happy old man, and I’m very happy right now.”
He was even-tempered when he addressed the crowd.
“I realized four years ago when I was diagnosed with leukemia that a lot of this doesn’t mean as much as we think it means as we’re living our lives,” he said. “The fact that we get to the chance to wake up and enjoy life on this planet every day — every day is a blessing from the good Lord. I’m out shopping or going to the movies or going to a bookstore or places and Laker fans come up to me and say, ‘Kareem, how’s your health? How are you doing?’ And that means more to me than any of this. And I want to thank all of you for that.”
Said Riley: “Only now, at this ripe old age of 67, do I realize how fortunate I was to have been a part of the Laker family for 25 years. Sometimes you think about where you end up in your life, and where I ended up in my life today is because of the people that supported me.”
Abdul-Jabbar felt the same way.