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Talking with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Part I

Kareemabduljabbar_ipgr6vkn Wow. Where to begin this introduction? 38,387 points? 3 NCAA titles? 6 NBA titles, matching the league MVP tallies? 50 Greatest Players status and HOF membership? Or just the classic "Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes." Any way you slice it, summarizing the career of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar into a neat little paragraph is no walk in the park.

Fortunately, that won't be necessary, since "The Captain" was kind enough to put much of it into his words for the blog. I sat down with Abdul-Jabbar last week (Brian needed to be in San Fran for an ESPN The Magazine assignment we're working on) and discussed everything from Andrew Bynum's potential to Kareem's friendship with Bruce Lee. Needless to say, I wasn't hurting for questions to ask. Here is the first of two parts. 

Andrew Kamenetzky: Well, your pupil Andrew Bynum had a heck of a night against Miami.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Yeah. He got intense and he rose to the occasion. I was happy to see him respond like the way he did. I thought it was real competent and competitive response.

AK: How's he progressing thus far, in your mind? Before the season started, there was talk about him spending time in the NBDL and he's actually been capable in spurts of getting actual minutes. Is he further along than you guys thought when you drafted him?

KAJ: I don't know what the thinking was when they took him, because he got here before I did. But I certainly think he's starting to reach that point where he can handle the minutes. I don't know how quickly they want to bring him along, and that's totally up to Phil, Mitch and those guys. But he's learning the things that he needs to learn and I think it's good for him that there's not all that pressure on him to come in and be the savior right away.

AK: What specifically are you looking to work on with him, at this level?

KAJ: Basically, right now, we're just doing mechanics. And I try to get as much context that I can, but until he can get into the game and play and see what it's like on the court, that's difficult. We can set up things in practice more or less mimicking real situations. But it's not the real thing... But that's (still) good, because it gets him thinking about the reality of it. And when it occurs during game time and he's in there, he's shown that his responses are definitely improved.

AK: What do you see right now as his strengths and weaknesses?

KAJ: He hasn't had to try to stop anybody that's a real capable scorer for a whole game. He hasn't had a lot of game experience. I don't think he played a complete high school season. So he hasn't played a whole season yet... Rising to the occasion against various obstacles is still something that he has to learn and experience before he can be considered a real pro. But he's getting the basic mechanics down, and by being able to sit on the bench and see what happens, the learning experience is taking place.

I expect him to be a good shot blocker. He enjoys the challenge of trying to be a good defensive player. And that's good. You have to have a hunger for that. That's not something that just comes. Most guys just want to score. But he does have a desire to be an effective defensive player... He wants to help his teammates. I told them that his primary job after stopping his man is to prevent layups. And he has to learn how to respond to that situation, what the priorities are. It can be confusing at times, when you have to make a choice. You've got to go help and leave your guy open to take the layup away. That's what the team game is about. When he does that, he's supposed to get help from other guys, to help shut down his man that he leaves to block the layup. So we have to work on that in practice and then he has to experience that in the game.

AK: How has he been to coach?

KAJ: He's great. As far as I'm concerned, he was sent from heaven, in terms of his attitude. He's willing to learn and understands that he needs to learn some things. He's not hostile to what I have to say. He's willing to try. And that's all I can expect.

AK: Is that quality a rare commodity with young players?

KAJ: I think it is today, because a lot of them aren't used to being coached. (The way) most kids today learn the game today, they watch things and then they go out and try it themselves instead of being coached at grade school and high school, let alone college. And they come to the pros.

AK: Along those lines, Bynum is the last of the high school kids. Were you in favor of the age limit?

KAJ: Yeah, I was. I think it's real tough to take someone from high school and put them in a situation where they have to deal with professional adults. I just thought of what I would have gone through if I was 18 trying to come into the NBA. I don't think I could have done that. I'm very happy
that I went and had the experience at UCLA. It was the perfect transition for me as a human being and as an athlete. I think it's something that these guys miss out on.

AK: How closely have you worked with Chris Mihm and Kwame Brown?

KAJ: I work with Chris intermittently. He's a vet, so he has a little bit more leeway. Kwame really sees himself as a face up player, so he hasn't come to me very often for advice. But with Chris, it's not really about the mechanics. He's got all the mechanics down. He just didn't know how to use his talents as a big man. All of his coaches, and Chris has been coached (this way), they figured someone his size with guard skills is going to be great. Consequently, he's trying to use guard skills in a place where they're not effective. He's always trying to get the ball through the defense close to the basket and he gets stripped a lot. He gets his shot blocked because he's playing the game at the wrong level. Once I got him thinking about playing the game (up high), where seven footers have their advantage, he's picking it a step up now. He's shooting his hook shot now. He's got confidence. He's shooting it right and left handed. He's presenting a much greater problem for the defenses by drawing the attention that he does. He's helping the other guys out on the perimeter.

AK: Have you spoken with him about his issue with picking up fouls? It seems to me that his effectiveness is almost purely dictated by the amount of minutes he can stay on the floor.

KAJ: And the whims of the officials. He gets jobbed by the officials a lot. That's one thing that annoys me, because I don't think he gets a fair call from the officials a lot of the time. But I've worked with him on a few things. Just with positioning and where to be. And that's helped him a little bit. He can block shots. He just has to figure out where he needs to be and when to choose to go or stay. Situational things still are a problem for him.

AK: Is it along the lines of what some people call "reputation fouls?"

KAJ: Yeah. I think some of it has to do with that. He rarely gets the benefit of the doubt... I think it's gotten a little bit better these last few games. And I think that once he achieves just a little more success, he'll start getting the benefit of some of those calls.

AK: Since coming back from the injury, Kwame's been having a bit more success. He seems more confident and his defensive presence is getting a lot of attention. Do you notice anything different in him when he came back?

KAJ: I think his focus has certainly improved. And in terms of concrete results, the offensive rebounds and the defensive presence. He's keeping guys out of the lane and the other team from getting offensive rebounds. He's getting a little more aggressive in trying to score. I think that's the last area that he could show more improvement in. But he hasn't hurt the team. That's they key. For a while there, he was hurting us with turnovers and not taking shots when he's had the opportunity... The guys, I think they believe in him. And that certainly helps.

AK: You dealt throughout your career with the label of being "aloof" or "distant." And Kobe has had to deal with it, too. You've both been in the position of having to lead a team while dealing with that reputation. Have you talked with Kobe at all about the challenge of getting past it, winning over people, teammates, the media, etc.?

KAJ: No, I haven't had a chance to talk with him about that. I certainly relate to him because the press can be merciless. And for someone in his position, where so often success or failure is on your shoulders, that makes him even more of a lightning rod. But I think he's trying to handle it in a good way. I think he's turned a corner, because he's basically a good human being. He's not a bad guy. I think his basic essence will be known at a certain point. He'll be able to show, through example, what he wants to show the public.

AK: Is it hard finding that balance between maintaining your privacy and letting in the fans and public a bit about who you are?

KAJ: It was difficult for me because in college, I was always told not to talk to the press. That was a problem. I had that mindset. And it was hard for me to overcome. It took a long time before I got a grasp of it. And after I retired and had a chance to deal with it, I realized how I had affected people's lives. I had no idea.

AK: What do you mean, specifically?

KAJ: How much people enjoyed what I did. What they were willing to share with me. Just like, the people that I've admired in my lifetime, when I've gotten to meet them, what a pleasure it is to be around them. I didn't understand that I also had affected people that way and that's what it was all about. I always saw it like they were trying to pry. I was way too suspicious and I paid a price for it.

AK: That leads into another question. There was the horrible incident in 1983 when your house burnt down. All these fans started bringing you albums and different items to help replace what you had lost. Was that a real eye opener for you in terms of realizing the effect you had?

KAJ: Yeah. That really confirmed everything. And when Earvin got with the team and we started winning, all of a sudden, it was good press now. We had won a world championship and then that happened, and I saw that it extended to me. It wasn't just about Earvin and the fact that he could smile and deal with it in his way. He was very comfortable with it. And that was a big step in a continuing process.

To this day, I'm amazed that me just doing my job, something that I love, can engender that kind of support and affection. It's a pretty amazing process.

AK: You just mentioned Magic. People always talk about Lamar and his all-around game. Do you think they're asking Odom to pull something of a "Magic," flirting with a triple double every game?

KAJ: I talk to Lamar a lot, because I coached him when I was with the Clippers in 2000. I know Lamar pretty well. What I tell Lamar is, "Don't even worry about the stats." This team needs a leader. They need somebody to lead them out on the court. Kobe doesn't lead like that. Lamar has this unique personality and skills where he can be a team leader because he does so many things. He's like a Swiss army knife. He blocks shots. Rebounds. Assists. He can score. He's really a multi-faceted player. He's upbeat and he's emotional. They need an emotional leader like that... He has some competitive fire. I'm happy to see him emerge that way.

AK: The team is doing a lot better than many of the naysayers had predicted before the start of the season. Are you surprised at all that they've been this competitive?

KAJ: I'm not surprised. I thought that if we could get some kind of consistent play in the front court that we'd do well. If we didn't get consistent play from guys like Kwame and Chris, it was going to be a tough, long season because the crucial area of the game is right there in front of the basket. But they've risen to the occasion, them and Lamar, and it's made a big difference.

AK: What do you think the team needs to improve on if they want to guarantee themselves a spot in the playoffs?

KAJ: If they get the ability to be a very good defensive team, that will take them a long way. At this point, they don't understand the concept as well as they need to. But they're learning. And when that gets to be a key issue for them as a group, they'll definitely take a step forward. (Defending) the pick and rolls and getting rebounds. A lot of loose balls that they don't get. Those drive me up the wall.

AK: What makes the pick and roll so hard to defend? Everybody runs it, so you would think defending it would be second nature. Yet it's so effective.

KAJ: Because there's always a little variation in the guys that are trying to perform it and the two guys that are defending against it. If there's any lack of attention to certain details, a good offensive player is going to take advantage of it. If somebody's a little slow or if they get lazy and they play way behind it, the offensive player can just pull up short, shoot the J. Or fake that, get the defense to over commit and then get the defense to break down by attacking the hoop.  It's a game of little details.

AK: It's a bread and butter play, so you'd think there'd be a bread and butter defense for it.

KAJ: Sometimes the butter doesn't get across the whole slice. It exposes something.

AK: During the Showtime era, there were always reports of you and Magic not getting along at times, or not being particularly close. But it never blew up the way things did for Shaq and Kobe. Is that the result of you guys handling it differently? A different media age?

KAJ: Well, first of all, we never had any personal animosity. Magic's family more or less kind of adopted me. Magic's mother is a Seventh-Day Adventist and they're kind of a lot like Muslims in that they don't eat pork and stuff. When I first met her, we talked about that. And she said, "Well, I'm gonna take care of you every time you come through Michigan." And she always cooked for me. I felt like a part of their family. There's a generational gap, of course, but that was it. I was older and mature than Earvin. But in terms of our personal relationship, there was never any problem. There was never any animosity going on there. And professionally, he thought it was his job to get the ball to the scorers. Hey, I don't have any problems with that. So professionally, absolutely, there was no problems. And personally, there was no problems. There was the gap there because I had different interests. That's all there was. I think people would try to find something there that did not exist.

AK: Do you think the misconception came from you guys not buddying it up together at clubs or something?

KAJ: Probably. A lot of times, we'd be on the road, we'd often go to the movies together. I enjoy film and it's something in common that we had. We didn't like the same kind of music, but Earvin is a music fan, just like I am. Different era, different types. But there's nothing there that was a "problem."

AK: Did you guys ever joke about it, like "I guess we're not getting along, apparently." You must have been aware people were saying this.

KAJ: I wasn't aware of it personally because we had never any issues come to a head. I had the team over to my house once in a while for a meal and Earvin did the same thing. As I mentioned, we traveled in the Midwest to Earvin's mom and siblings. I got to know his family. I thought it went pretty well.

AK: After you had retired and you started hearing that it was "common knowledge" that the two of you didn't get along, were you taken for a loop?

KAJ: Yeah. I don't know where that came from. I have no idea where that came from, because there were never any incidents. The one incident was the game that I won in San Diego, his first professional game. I hit the shot and (he was all over me). And I told him, "Look man. We got 81 more games." But we laughed about it. It wasn't a thing where I had some type of hostile reaction to it. What I was saying was, "we can't go through these emotional ups and downs for 81 more games. We'll be a mess." What I learned in all that was it's okay to have fun and enjoy the moment. So there was an exchange there. It wasn't a conflict. It was just an exchange.

AK: How great a luxury was it to play with a guy like Magic?

KAJ: Hey, I was blessed twice, because I got to play with Oscar (Robertson) and then with Earvin. They are two of the best. Ever. How can anybody complain about being that lucky twice in your career to play with kind of excellence in the backcourt?

You have to be a team. We had great guys on this team. Jamaal Wilkes. Norm Nixon played on the championship team. Myself. But we weren't a complete team. And Earvin's skills and leadership was something that we needed in that position or we weren't going to make it to the top. He completed the picture. If you take any of those pieces away... Look what happened when I left the team. He didn't get to play for the world championship again, because I was also a key factor. So we appreciated each other that way. You know you can't make it unless all the pieces are in place.

AK: When Magic arrived, did you have a sense that the final piece was now in place?

KAJ: (In) training camp. I could tell. Jack McKinney was so savvy in figuring out how to use him. He had him figured out and the offense definitely ran. And our defensive schemes really enabled us to dominate immediately. I made it possible for Earvin to play in the backcourt defensively, because if he got beat, I wasn't letting people get layups. I was still a very effective shot blocker and taking the lane away from the defense. And if he got beat, with his size and rebounding skills, he could go find the center and keep the center occupied, so the center wasn't gonna be able to take advantage of me leaving him to take away the layup opportunity and plug the lane. That was the key to our defensive scheme. People haven't really talked about it that much. We really were able to compliment each other that way. It made problems for the other team's offense.

AK: Those Showtime era teams were so ridiculously deep with talent. How did you go about keeping a championship as the focus, without egos getting in the way?

KAJ: I have to give credit to Jerry West for just picking the right guys. Guys who had the right attitude and right background in knowing what team play was about. One draft, we could have gotten Dominque Wilkins, Terry Cummings, or James Worthy. Jerry picked the right guy. Now, of those three guys, if you picked Dominique, nobody would be screaming, "You screwed up!" Nobody's gonna say that. But Jerry picked the right guy for us. Again, we were blessed to have Jerry in our position and he knew what he was doing... James was absolutely the right guy.

AK: How does being a part of a team that strong and unified feel?

KAJ: It feels natural, like this is what something is supposed to be like. Like you feel when you're with your siblings or parents. This is a natural unit... We felt like that. Our professional desires were so similar that it was family.

AK: Having been a part of that, does it puzzle you to see teams squabbling over who gets the credit, stats, glory?

KAJ: Again, I think that's something that's a direct result of the lack of opportunities for people to go to a university and be coached and figure out what that's about. Figure out a few things about life before they become professional athletes. 

AK: Was there a particular title during the Showtime era that stood out to you as the most special?

KAJ: 1985. The Lakers were 0-8 against the Celtics in World Championship play at that point. Plus, we had lost the year before that really left something sticking in our throat that needed to be cleared. Absolutely 1985.

(photo by Lori Shepler/LAT)

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Dude, this blog is so much better than anything in ESPN "Insider".

Can't wait for the Bruce Lee stuff.


Cap is on his way to becoming known for his ability to really coach big men. Mihm has shown so much improvement, and didn't Kareem work with Kandiman his one good year with the Clipps? Very encouraging about Bynum's attitude.

Perhaps if Houston had hired Kareem instead of super-soft Pat Ewing Yao wouldn't be such a disappointment.

Seems like Kareem's still helping us win games, all these years later.

Good interview, too...way to ask the difficult questions about Magic.

'He has some competitive fire'
sorry but I don't think so.

Great to hear from KAJ...loved it! If you get a chance tell him, Michael C. Teniente, a lifelong Laker fans says hi! I was listening to the game on the radio when he got into it with Ken Benson and got suspended for like 60 games or something like that. I still remember the trade. Elmore Smith, Junior Bridgeman, Brian Winters, and Dave Myers for Kareem and Walt Wesley. I think, not exact but close. Along with Magic we won 5 NBA championship. Thanks the BIG CAP!


It's always great to hear from The Captain.

Kareem, thanks for coming back and helping us out. I feel so much better knowing that you're back with the team. It just gives me faith.

I wish Kwame would reach out to you a bit more. I'm sure he would benefit from your tuteledge.

Thanks, coach and AK!

This is awesome! Thanks a lot AK for this wonderful piece of work. Can't wait to read part 2. Lakers big men can not go wrong listening to this legend. And Kareem is SO right about Mihm. The refs need to realize that Mihm CAN play!! Mihm is the best center Lakers got in recent years besides Shaq! (Mihm > Divac, Benoit Benjemen, Sam Bowie, Greg Foster, etc) I have so much confident in Mihm now that I wish he can get a lot more touches down in the post. I believe he can easily avg 15 and 10 is he gets more touches down low.

And I still don't understand why people are still calling Yao a disappointment. What more do you want from the guy.

Yao is averaging: 19.9pts, 9.1 reb, 50% fg%, 84% ft% and 1.5 blk.

Compare that to Mr Shaq: 18.9 pts, 9.4 reb, 56% fg%, 45% ft% and 1.4 blk.

When your numbers are right up par with 'the most dominant big man in the game', you are doing pretty well in my book!!

Again, AK, great interview and I can not thank you enough for this wonderful blog.

So, why did the Lakers take so long in hiring Cap?? That is one of the biggest questions, in my own mind. Cap could have used all those years of coaching experience, and he has expressed the urge to coach. One of the biggest factors, that Kareem brings, is his background, with "The Wizard of Westwood". Kareem's knowledge is firmly based, on all the solid fundamentals, as espoused by his former UCLA Coach.

Today's generation is in dire need of being schooled, in the basic fundamentals, which seem to have been "swept under the rug". Coach Riley was another "stickler", of basic fundamentals, and good, old fashioned hard work. I often wonder how players, like Kobe, would fare, under a coach like Pat Riley. Certainly, as far as hard work, and conditioning, Kobe, and Riles would be on the same page... The only problem, as I see it, would be Kobe's penchant for leaving the TEAM concept, at times. I don't think Riles would have stood for Kobe's style, at least, not in the 80's... I wonder if Riles, like Phil, would have buckled, or swayed, in today's political climate? I had a feel, that Riles was having problems with these aspects, when he first left coaching.


If you interview Kareem in the future, though I loved the part about Kareem and Magic's relationship, it would be great if we could go into further detail about Kareem's approach to coaching and his insights on Turiaf, Cook, Mihm, Bynum, and Kwame.

I know he said a lot, but I'd like to know a lot more.


Lakers need to hire BILL WALTON.



You guys are doing a tremendous job for us die hard laker fans! For that thank you a bunch!

I have noticed that the times has moved your blog link from upper right to lower right and replaced it with the J.A Adande (A.K.A "the Weasel")weblog!!
What's up with that? WHERE IS THE LOVE?

P.S: I checked out his weblog and let's just say you guys are doin' well...I'll leave it at that!

QUOTE: Dido,
"'He has some competitive fire'
sorry but I don't think so."

I'm sure you're right! I'm sure you have seen more of Bynum than KAJ. He has been working with this guy for months now, I assume your Bynum's cousin, or brother maybe? You seem to know him so well

You must know alot about the game of b-ball, and how to judge players, or at least you know more than KAJ.

LAMO!!! Thanks for my laugh of the day. Some poeple are so silly sometimes.

Solid interview. I am so sick of interviews where completely redundant questions are asked. If an interviewer is going to go that route they should go to the far end of the spectrum and pull one of those Chris Farley interviews from old SNL skits.

“Remember..remember that time, when you were on the Lakers, and um, you made that hook shot over Mark Eaton, and um, in went in, and uhh, you broke the scoring record? THAT WAS AWESOME!”

But seriously, does it bother anyone else that Kwame doesn’t spend time with Kareem? Obviously he probably spends most, if not all, of his time with the first unit practicing in the triangle, but again, this is where it would be nice to see some of the other guys step up and match Kobe’s dedication. Don’t you think we have the talent on this team if Kwame and Mihm came in an hour before practice, or stayed late to work on some post moves with Kareem? I’m happy to hear his take on Bynum. The verdict is still out with me on the kid, but from what the Cap says I’m feeling positive about him (today).

This leads me to another point. How many of you would love, LOVE to hear Kobe say “I got to the arena three hours before the game like always to work on my shooting, and Lamar was there working on using his right hand, Kwame was practicing lay-ups, and Luke was working on mid-range jumpers. No one has ever beat me to the arena, I was shocked!!” That would make my day folks.

Again, I echo what everyone else is saying, thanks for the great interview and this blog, it’s definitely great for Laker fans.

He was saying that comment about Lamar Odom.

Gottcha, Thanks for clearing that up.

I thought he was speculating on the kid. Sorry for the mixup.

Kudos to both AK and KAJ. Great insight. I have been an KAJ fan since his name was Lew A., on a team called the Bucks with the Big "O" & Bobby Dandridge. I have been in hopes of the Lakers bringing back KAJ as a coach to help our big men. This is a happy time for me, all we need is a couple more pieces and back to the championship. Please keep these kind of Blogs coming.


ron artest is traded to sacramento. done deal. reported on verified by the pacer's front office. sad, but true.

That was a nice intrview AK. I just noticed that you were delving too much on a feud with Earvin that never existed. Did you notice Kareem never called Earvin as Magic but used his first name? You see KAJ or used to be LA (Lew Alcindor) is a proud individual, an intellectual player with college degree at UCLA. He loves jazz music and developed a unique style of shooting that became a secret weapon of the Lakers during the Showtime era. He shuns the media because they were like leeches negative to his of changing his name just like Muhammad Ali. Then, when he also embraced Muslim religion, the more negative vibrations as if the name change would affect his game. KAJ is a very responsible player, he never abused his body nor forced those dunks and that was the reason why he was able to extend his playing days to Age 40. Unlike the Centers of this era like: Shaq, Amare or Mourning, they try to break the fiberglass board, jump high enough and block every shot with gusto - just to showoff but later on in life those power dunks and power jumps will wear off their body at a very tender age. Kareem belongs to the baby boomer era, they witnessed the changing times like Malcolm X, racial protests in the South, the Vietnam war, the Beatles, the flower people and also fascination with Marijuana. He belongs to the age Aquarius of giving oneself for the benefit of mankind. In retrospect, he has a different mindset to the players of today whose philosophy is to show-off, get more bling-bling in order for their agent to negotiate for more mega millions. Going back to the Lakers, if Kwame and Chris could only adopt the KAJ moves, his timing on pivots and also his ball release as though he was in tune with his jazz music, it would surely improve their game. I suggest they should study KAJ old video tapes going back to the Bruins era, Bucks then the Lakers. Playing professional basketball is just like going to war, you have to study and find those historical patterns.

Al Alvarado:
So, why did the Lakers take so long in hiring Cap?? That is one of the biggest questions, in my own mind.

It was made plain when the hired him that they didn't have a role for him and the reason was that Shaq wouldn't have listened to him. Why they didn't hire him before Shaq was here, I have no idea.

The Cap is a great asset. It's disappointing that Kwame is not taking advantage. He's blowing off a chance to develop all the missing fundamentals (like dunking the ball with two hands when you are 6'11' and a foot from the basket). You can lead a horse to water...

Hey Edwin,

Thanks for the nice words. I'm glad you enjoyed the interview.

Honestly, I wasn't even trying to delve into the Magic-Kareem non-feud as much I was just genuinely surprised by his answer. I kept asking questions because I was trying to figure out how the perception originated, you know? That threw me for a bit of a loop. Not because I was expecting Kareem to shout "#@*& Magic!," but I thought he'd answer something along the lines of "we had our occasional issues, but they were never as bad as people made them out to be, and in the end, we were both about winning." That kinda thing.

But I like when answers don't go as expected. It makes for a more interesting interview, and challenges me as I conduct it, which is always fun. And yeah, I did notice he called him "Earvin," which I thought was very cool. It just struck me as very "Kareem." Not even sure what that means, but it's a compliment.

Thanks for the comment, Edwin.


The comment by Kareem that struck me was his saying that the team really needed a leader and that Lamar Odom, not Kobe, was the player to lead the team.

Here's what Kareem said about Lamar, Kobe, and the need for a leader:

"I talk to Lamar a lot, because I coached him when I was with the Clippers in 2000. I know Lamar pretty well. What I tell Lamar is, "Don't even worry about the stats." This team needs a leader. They need somebody to lead them out on the court. Kobe doesn't lead like that. Lamar has this unique personality and skills where he can be a team leader because he does so many things. He's like a Swiss army knife. He blocks shots. Rebounds. Assists. He can score. He's really a multi-faceted player. He's upbeat and he's emotional. They need an emotional leader like that... He has some competitive fire. I'm happy to see him emerge that way."

Incidentally, beat writer Brad Turner of the Riverside Press Enterprise said a couple of months ago that Lamar Odom, not Kobe, was the leader of the team, the guy everyone on the team looked to for direction.

Interesting, to say the least.

First off, I don't show AK, and BK enough love so I just want to say thanks for giving us fans a place to put our thoughts down, and see how other people feel about the same issues. I've never been on another blog and I don't plan on going on any more unless there as good as yours.

I liked the interview with Cap. I do wish Kwame would go to him more for advice with his game. I think Kwame can have a good back to the basket game as well if he worked at it with Kareem.

Once again thanks for giving us Laker fans (and even haters) a forum to give our opinion.

It is really a shame that they follow Lamar, not Kobe. Lamar is not a good example, he is not agressive, does not take good shots, and is a real disappointment. It seems to me, that people should choose a leader that is a sucess, not a failure. Kobe is a hard worker, we don't hear anything about Lamar's work habits. If you don't have natural talent, then that is when you should work the hardest. So if the Lakers want to be sucesful, then Kobe should be your leader, not Lamar !!!!


Thanks for the nice words, man. I really appreciate it. Glad you're enjoying the blog so much.


Yes, Lamar is a multi-faceted player. I agree.

But Lamar being upbeat and emotional? He has some competitive fire? Sorry Cap, but I don't think so.

This is the difference between him and Scottie Pippen ( and maybe Scottie's Bball IQ). If Lamar is indeed upbeat and emotional and he has competitive fire, he will be one helluva player. And the Lakers one helluva team.

I agree with gr. Kareem, I loved your game and place in NBA and Laker history, but Lamar isn't the leader of this teamm, Kobe is. If the Lakers are following Lamar then we'll stay on stupid. Lamar has a good game but he is no leader! The man can't even talk. Have you ever seen him in an interview? He doesn't look at the people who are interviewing him. He looks up and down as if he has no confidence in what he saying or just to shy to look into the camera and talk like a man. Leader? I think not, but that doesn't make him a bad number 3 player on any team.


Kareem is so smart and articulate. It is a shame he hasn't gotten a chance to be more of a bench coach or even coach his own team. With all the mediocre coaches and retreads it's a real shame. I think he has redeemed his self in the eyes of the NBA players lets hope the establishment recognizes one day soon. He is a real good head coach waiting to happen. Good luck Cap!

Capt'n Lamar? Maybe . . . .

Uh, guys, Kareem sees far more of Lamar and Kobe than we do -- and he sees them up close during practice. Doesn't it stand to reason that he might be a better judge of who might be the better leader than us fans? And, as poster Kid Ramos pointed out, Kareem isn't the first close observer to point out that the players on the team regard Lamar, and not Kobe, as the REAL leader of the team. Borderick Turner, one of the Laker beat writers, has stated on more than one occassion that, based on his observations, Lamar is the de facto leader of the team. For what it's worth, many of the Bulls players regarded Scottie Pippen as the leader of the Bulls, and not Michael, even though Michael was the best player on the team.

Given what we've read over the years about Kobe's personal flaws, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Kobe isn't much of a leader. Let's face it, the best player on the team isn't always the leader of the team.

By all accounts, Avery Johnson was the leader of the first Spurs chapmionship team, not David Robinson or Tim Duncan, even though both were better players than Avery. And that might be the case in Laker-land right now. Kobe's clearly the best player on the team, but Lamar might be the superior leader. Nothing to be concerned about . . . .

The interview with Kareem was one of the best I've read. AK gave us great insights to the games' greatest center. Jabbar's view of Lamar as a leader has to be respected. I think the reason Mr. Odom is the right man for the job is due to his patience and tolerance for the situation. Our Lakers will be winners before everyone thinks.
Bleed the Purple and Gold!

that really was a truly great interview. because 1) we got to hear from kareem's own mouth that the whole hostility thing between him and magic was a complete media fabrication, and on the contrary he and magic got along pretty well. i love the image of them watching movies together. of course, he won't be out clubbing with magic and everyone else. he was and is a disciplined spiritual person who doesn't do that. and 2) it just made me smile to see that he's basically a low-key guy who's not caught up with needless drama. i liked how he gave props to everyone. thank god he's back with the lakers where he belongs. i'm looking forward to the rest of the interview. and more interviews with kareem in the future. nice job to the brothers k.

I'm just reading between the lines here, but I think when Kareem (That happens to be my son's name) said LO was the leader he was talking about patting guys on the butt, giving them encouraging words, and just being the nice guy they can talk to about their game. Kobe on the other hand leads by example. He tells them when they do something wrong, more than when they do something right because he wants them to get better. Kobe is the true leader of this team, but like Cap said, LO is the emotional leader

GREAT GREAT interview AK. Been in the US for only 9.5 years never got to see the SHOWTIME LAKERS, so DIDNT know what ABDUL JABBAR was all about. One of the most interesting interviews I've read. Thank you. And from somebody that lived outside the US in my teen years, KAREEM was THE MAN who made THE NBA global. THE 80s LAKERS were next to AC MILAN and LIVERPOOL and KAREEM next to DIEGO MARADONNA and Marco VanBasten (2 great football, or soccer, players). I tell you WHAT. THE BEST KNOWN american, or for that matter the best known athlete in the world untill MJ exploded.

Thanx K Bros. for adding the real inside spice to the LA times. I have developed a neurotic compulsion to scan through these pages every single day (wait a minute... is that a good thing...?) Anyway, you're doing a hell of a job!

In response to M. Teniente's post, what I've noticed is MOST athletes avoid looking at the reporter they're talking to. I find this very disrespectful and nonchalant, even though reporters can be quite annoying sometimes. Kobe, on the other hand, came in to this league and conducted himself in a very professional and polite manner and often had a smile on his face when talking to reporters. I can understand why this has diminshed through the years, but I still think he conducts himself better than most athletes (have you seen Shaq for instance...)

And now back to essentials - wouldn't this upcoming roadtrip be a good time to send the Toddler (Bynum) and Turiaf to Ft. Worth? I mean, there wouldn't be that much practice time on the road and this could get the guys some playing time. Even though we surely could use some backup bodies on this tiring trip I don't think Phil will use them much or at all. Any thoughts?

Btw, I'm also interested in Kareems thoughts on a head coaching job. I must admit I have a hard time seeing him as one in the NBA, although he seems to be a great teacher. He seems to have more of a college coaching type of manner, where the teaching part still pays great dividence.

Andy L.

I don't think Bynum or Turiaf should be sent down. I think they need real action. Tell me, is FT. Worth playing the triangle? I predict that when Turiaf gets his chance we're going to see a player who is ready for the NBA. He plays with a lot of energy, which I think will energize the team at those moments. Bynum can't go down, what would Kareem do? Follow him to FT. Worth? I don't know if your asking me the Kareem question but I'll answer it anyway. I think Kareem has the benefit of some of the greatest teacher in basketball history, starting with John Wooden. Kareem is fundamentally sound in all aspects of the game. He has an image problem but I think that can be "fixed" just by doing what he's doing now, which is talking to people. I also think that if PJ exits at the end of his 3 year contract, I think Kareem can and should be considered for the Lakers heading coaching position. Kareem is a perfectionist and I think he would demand that, over a period of time, from any team where he is the head coach. The man has been a winner in every phase of his career and I don't think that would change if he were the headcoach of the Lakers at the end of PJ stint, whenever that might be.


Great interview. I, too, have been a Lakers' fan forever, and I miss the teamwork and comraderie of the Showtime era. Once Shaq left, the entire essense of the Lakers' mystique left as well. I'm confident that no one will mistake Kobe for anything other than a selfish twert, psychologically and emotionally unqualified to be a leader. I am a Vietnam era veteran, and the one most important lesson I learned during my stint in the military is that "if you can't follow, you certainly can't lead." Let's agree to at least support Lamar as he and PJ continue to build on his efforts to lead a cohesive "team-based" unit. As Cap reminded us, until Magic came, there was no cohesion; there was an incomplete "team." Once Cap retired, the "team" was once again incomplete, although Magic lead the Lakers like the master conductor that he is/was. Thanks for listening. Bumani.

Since this is a serious interview...I've always been curious at to how and why Kareem still decided to become a Muslim after taking History 120 (History of East Africa) at UCLA and learning about the ravages carried out in that part of the world by Arabian slavers. He sat in the back of the class, I sat in the front (as opposed to screenwriting, where Mike Warren was already preparing for the career he had cleverly chosen...but we never talked about Kareem).

Oh? So Kareem should choose christianity instead, because the crusaders and conquistadors were such saints, mr. Foster? I don't think Cap bases his beliefs on what morons throughout history have done in the name of different religions.

M. Teniente

Even though they don't run the triangle in Ft. Worth I still think Turiaf and (especially) Toddler could have great use of some game action. The youngster could try out those post moves Kareem was talking about in a "live" situation. It's not all about the triangle for Bynum, he needs playing time experience and Turiaf needs to get his wind back.

Great interview! Keep these interview's coming. I'll love the Lakers til the day I die.

this is just a rhetorical question.does anyone out there believe that people grow in all directions from all their experiences good and bad.IF this is so then why do we think we have to read between the lines like a insecure child who thinks he never gets enough love.we always label people and nobody is ever the same person.This is especialy true for those who are in the spotlight.WE need to move on and forget the past because its not here and now tj simers

I love the fact that we have kareem back in the fold and he is helping our bigs get better.He needs to help kb get better hands. The interview was great and Im looking forward to part II. I still dont know why people can hate somebody they dont really know.We all know that everybody just wants our dime thats why they talk trash.kobe is just a child in years and everybody expects a perfect person good luck some us never reach that goal.

Excerpt from and article:

One of the few coaching jobs Abdul-Jabbar has held was with the Clippers for the last half of the 1999-2000 season. He has unpleasant memories of working with then-Clippers center Michael Olowokandi, the first overall pick in the 1998 NBA draft.

"He resented having to learn something," Abdul-Jabbar said. "We had one episode in practice when he told me he didn't want me to correct him in front of the other players.

"When he told me that, I knew I didn't have a job. He was physically gifted -- he was three-quarters of the way there. The most crucial aspect is learning the game. He wasn't into it."

Now playing for Minnesota, Olowokandi has a different memory of that time.

"When he was there, I had a great season," Olowokandi said. "Obviously, he's entitled to his opinion. He's very well-accomplished, and that's within his right. I wouldn't characterize his being there as really working with me. He was there with the team."


What a loser Kandiman is! Refusing to learn from the best? How dare he? No wonder he is considered one of the worst #1 pick. Untalented arrogant bastards thesedays. I pity the fool!

i m a muslim(from lebanon u propably havent herd of my country)and would like to say that it s agreat relegion which is about purety and hard work(sadly most people dont commit to that(i m not a lot better but not all are bin laden)i have been a laker fan since 98(first time i watched a NBA game)
like most of u i bleed purple and gold
i want to thank Ak & BK for the great stuff
and would like to know more about Bynim coz i think he has great potentiel and to know wat Cap thinks of him
thanx a lot
kobe for MVP

"if you can't follow, you certainly can't lead."

Kobe followed Phil through 3 championships, and is doing just fine as a leader on this team, if Lamar has become more of that figure to some of the other players, there's no reason to find any fault in Kobe for that. Kobe is certainly showing them how to compete in this league at a high level, and I think it's good to have his more demanding aggressive personality there to drive his teammates and keep them from becoming complacent in their abilities (think good-cop bad-cop). Neither Phil nor Lamar are known for getting very fired up emotionally/competitively, and if all of Lamar's antics towards the refs constitute good leadership then I would urge the players to look to Kobe's professionalism on the court for a better example.

Great story. I'm from Lansing MI so of course Magic fan. Its great to hear about the old fellas of the glory days. Gotta say go Pistons though.

I'm impressed as hell with Kareem's response that sometimes the butter doesn't cover the whole piece of bread. Even if it was an analogy Kareem picked up sometime in the past, it was fast thinking to apply it in this context. And it's hugely amazing if he just came up with that analogy on the spur of the moment right there in the interview...

Great interview. Kareem is a first-class gentleman and I've admired him. I think it has been CRIMINAL for the NBA not to have hired him as a coach all these years.

Owolakandi really screwed the pooch when he put guidelines on how he would be taught. When given the opportunity to learn from one of the best, you sit down and shut up, no matter how qualified or confident in your abilities you may be.

The student does not tell the master how the art is to be known.

I hope part 2 includes Kareem's views on Wilt Chamberlain! I have and heard and read lots of conflicting things regarding how Wilt and Kareem regarded each other. They especially disagreed on politics and black consciousness. But now that Wilt is gone, I guess Kareem will be gracious enough not to criticize the Dipper. Anyway, I loved them both.

Kudos to you for the interview and the candid and interesting comments by Kareem. I remember seeing him play for Milwaukee bak in the early 70s. I became a Laker fan when Wilt went to the Lakers in 1969, and have been an avid fan ever since. I loved Kareem (Lew) when he was with UCLA, but hated it when he did so well for Milwaukee against the Lakers. I alway admired him, and became a big, big fan when he came to the Lakers. Kareem and Magic brought much success and many fun times to Laker fans and to NBA history. Keep up the good work and please continue to work for the Lakers, Kareem!

Kareem is an influecial person. He always taught me never to give up.

I love the CAP. Takes me back to those showtime era games, chickie baby...magic man, ac, byron scott and his 20 foot layups, the cap, m.thompson..COOOOPPP...dang!..that was a TEAM..all for one, one for all..didnt matter if a guy scored 10, or 1 or 0 as long as they played hard..they were going to win!


anyway...AK...tell him (the captain) that we STILL love him and appreciate everything he did for the purple and gold!

oh and thanks to AK, i love this keeps me "grounded" here in lonely ass dallas *mavs suck*....seriously i was about to shoot some people today..eVERYONE in dallas is already talking championship.....stupidstupid.

anyway..AK, thanks for keeping THIS fan interested in this blog, for keeping us abreast of all the updates for the awesome interviews, and making it easy to get through this time with no BBall for us die hard fans.

Go lakers..4 life..4 better or worse.

oh and i will have to agree..Kobe is the natural leader on this team..he is the hardest working..anybody who calls him selfish or wonders why he is so good..only need to see him working out consistently, he is never satisfied..he is the what happens when you combine..amazing natural talent and ability with hardwork and dedication and sweat...

hi from iran and i wanna talk to kareem abdul jabbar.i really need his family friend .and i have very important talk with him.would u help me to find him?if u have his telephone number or his e-mail address or his yahoo id please send me.because i cant do any thing in here.but believe me its very important . thanks

I grew up in Milwaukee and went to many many games during Kareem's years there. I worshipped him. I remember once I followed him to his car after a game. No one else saw him leave the locker room so there I was, 8 years old, at Kareem's car, no one in the world near us. I asked for his autograph. "No way, kid." Got in his car and drove off. Really hurt my feelings back then. He kind of owns up to that attitude (which he was notorious for) and regrets it. However, it was such a pleasure to watch him and the Big O play. Those were great years, and I still believe he was the greatest offensive player in history. So much elegance and intelligence to his game. One of a kind.

my name is amir
im 16 and playing basketball
from iran-tabriz
i have sent e-mail before but you didnt respond me
i have very important subject:to find kareem abdul-jabbar

i want you to send me his telephone number or e-mail address any thing that i can reach him
send your anwser to my e-mail

or :here is my phone number

good job



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