Kareem Abdul-Jabbar feels 'slighted' he doesn't have a statue outside Staples Center
Despite his accomplishments as the NBA's all-time leading scorer and winning five of his six championships with the Lakers, former Laker and UCLA product Kareem Abdul-Jabbar believes his popularity among Angelenos and within the Laker organization remains low because of his introverted personality.
"There hasn't been any talk of it," Abdul-Jabbar said. "I don't understand that. It's either an oversight or they're taking me for granted. I'm not going to try to read people's minds, but it doesn't make me happy. It's definitely a slight. I feel slighted."
Staples Center features three Lakers statues, including Magic Johnson, Chick Hearn and Jerry West, which was unveiled in February during NBA All-Star weekend. Staples Center also features statues depicting hockey player Wayne Gretzky and boxer Oscar De La Hoya. Johnson's statue was dedicated during the NBA All-Star game in Los Angeles in 2004, while Hearn's statue was unveiled last season. The six-time NBA MVP expressed even more disappointment in a statement released subsequently by his business manager.
"I am highly offended by the total lack of acknowledgement of my contribution to Laker success," Abdul-Jabbar was quoted as saying. "I guess being the lynchpin for five world championships is not considered significant enough in terms of being part of Laker history."
Lakers spokesman John Black disagreed with Abdul-Jabbar's characterization, telling Greenberg that the Lakers have informed Abdul-Jabbar that the next Laker statue will feature him, although there is no specified timetable. Abdul-Jabbar has long felt that his skeptical attitude and stoic nature toward the press was made more apparent compared with Johnson's media-savvy personality. But Abdul-Jabbar's contention that the Lakers haven't considered featuring a statue of him is factually wrong.
In Jeanie Buss' book, 'Laker Girl,' she mentioned that it was her "dream" to commission another statue for the 2011 NBA All-Star Game, but that she was conflicted over whether it should depict West or Abdul-Jabbar. "It's a tough choice," she wrote. In a sit-down interview with The Times' last November, Buss said that while there aren't any definitive plans for a statue unveiling featuring Abdul-Jabbar, she expressed confidence that it would eventually happen.
"I would have to think so," Buss said. "I would have to think he'd be the natural fit. There's so many great Lakers, but certainly Kareem stands among some of the greatest of all time."
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks for Brian Winters, Junior Bridgeman, Dave Meyers and Elmore Smith in 1975. Credit: Carol Francavilla / Associated Press