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Category: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar relishes becoming cultural ambassador

Below are excerpts from a recent conversation with former Lakers player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, whom the State Department recently named as a cultural ambassador. He will travel to Brazil from Sunday through Jan. 28, with stops in Salvador and Rio de Janiero. There he will talk to young people about education, social and racial tolerance, cultural understanding and using sports as a means of empowerment. You can listen to the entire 23-minute interview in the video above.

 On his trip to Brazil: "I'll do a couple of basketball clinics and also be involved in discussions with young people. The Brazilian government is trying to rearrange the educational system so it reaches more of the population. They think the population is underserved by the educational system and needs revamping. The U.S. government will try to help them with this. I'll talk to young people about the need for education."

 On his book, "What Color is My World": "The book is about black inventors. It's targeted for kids 8-12 years old. My motivation in writing it had to do with my memories of ... when I was ... growing up. Black Americans were only mentioned in regards to the use of slavery and civil rights. There's so much more to that story. By focusing on black inventors, you can see where black Americans have contributed so much to world culture in the many inventions they have made."

On what interests him about history: "It started with the neighborhood I grew up in in Manhattan and New York City. It was a Revolutionary War battlefield ... As a kid, we'd find musket balls and old bottles in vacant lots and in the parks. Sometimes after it rains, we'd find arrowheads in Manhattan. I was always aware of the people that superceded us."

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sizes up Andrew Bynum, Dwight Howard

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is nowhere near the basketball court these days.

He has been busy preparing for a visit to Brazil starting Sunday in his first official trip as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. State Department.

But the former Lakers center and the NBA's all-time leading scorer still keeps tabs on the Lakers. In particular, Abdul-Jabbar maintains a watchful eye on center Andrew Bynum after working with him as a Lakers special assistant coach from 2005 to 2011.

The Lakers (10-6) visit the Orlando Magic on Friday at Amway Center in a game that features a matchup of Bynum and Dwight Howard, who leads NBA centers in points (20.1) and rebounds (15.6) per game. Abdul-Jabbar was reluctant to say which player the Lakers should covet more ahead of the league's trade deadline March 15.

"That's hard for me to call," Abdul-Jabbar said Friday in a phone interview with The Times. "I've never seen Dwight Howard play in person. I've only worked with Andrew. I've never seen Dwight up close for a period of time to have a good assessment of him. But the statistics don't lie. He's one of the best in the league and is a very valuable commodity." 

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar named State Department cultural ambassador


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is about to embark on something possibly more far-reaching than even his legendary skyhook.

The U.S. State Department has announced that the NBA's all-time leading scorer has been enlisted to serve as a global cultural ambassador and help with diplomatic efforts. That begins Sunday, Jan. 22, when Abdul-Jabbar plans to travel to Brazil to speak on a number of events mostly centering on education.

Abdul-Jabbar, who won five of his six NBA championships with the Lakers, has showed strong interest in world affairs. He released a documentary this year titled "On the Shoulders of Giants," which focuses on the Harlem Rens (short for the New York Renaissance) and their effect on the sport and society as the first professional black basketball team. Abdul-Jabbar is the author of seven books, mostly on African American history. And this past summer, he was honored for his efforts on his documentary with a Lincoln Medal at the Ford's Theatre Society annual gala.


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 'On the Shoulders of Giants' celebrates the Harlem Rens

— Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at

Photo: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to discuss his new role as a global cultural ambassador. Credit: State Department.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says Shaquille O'Neal never asked for help

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

If only Shaquille O'Neal approached Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and asked him for advice, Cap would have gladly provided it.

That's according to the response the league's all-time leading scorer posted on his Facebook page, after reading O'Neal's comments printed in his book suggesting Abdul-Jabbar seemed unhelpful to him during his 19-year NBA career.

Abdul-Jabbar says he went to Louisiana State and spent time with O'Neal to teach him the skyhook as a favor to Coach Dale Brown. But Brown later told Abdul-Jabbar that O'Neal's father had instructed his son to concentrate on powering his way to the basket. 

"As a pro I never approached Shaq because I thought he was pretty successful dunking everything and I assumed he didn't want my help," Abdul-Jabbar said. "Additionally, I was never on the coaching staff of any of his teams. I was never unfriendly to him and I would talk to him, but Shaq was enjoying his success, doing it his way. He never asked me of what I thought he should be doing and he never tried to reach out to me for any instruction and I respected that decision."

In passages of "Shaq Uncut: My Story," it's very clear O'Neal didn't want to approach Abdul-Jabbar right away for advice because he didn't want to appear to be a kiss-up. Instead, O'Neal said he tried to earn the respect of several elite centers by filming a Reebok commercial with Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Bill Walton and ensuring that they received "a nice paycheck." But O'Neal avoided pressing the issue with Abdul-Jabbar, who he contended was barely interested in making small talk during their encounters.

"If I had any idea that Shaq wanted to learn from me, I would have been happy to have worked with him, but all indications that I had received was that he felt he was doing fine and he didn't need or want my help," Abdul-Jabbar said. "I am totally surprised by Shaq's comments as I tried to respect his privacy and never got any indication from anyone that he wanted or needed any input from me with regard to how he played the game. Shaq had a great career, and I, like everyone else, respect what he has achieved."


Shaquille O'Neal wishes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a better mentor

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-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at

Photo: Former Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar appeared taken aback about Shaquille O'Neal suggesting Cap never reached out to him to offer help. Credit: Carol Francavilla / Associated Press

Shaquille O'Neal wishes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a better mentor

It turns out Andrew Bynum has already accomplished something that Shaquille O'Neal never will.

The current Lakers center received personal instruction from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, while the former Lakers center wishes he could have benefited from such teaching. Although he notes in his book that LSU Coach Dale Brown once brought Abdul-Jabbar onto campus to teach O'Neal the sky hook, the Big Fella believes Cap didn't offer much support as a pro.

"Kareem was never around," O'Neal wrote in "Shaq Uncut: My Story," co-written by Jackie MacMullan. "And, whenever I did see him, he usually ignored me. The disappointing thing to me was, being in LA all those years and trying to fill those shoes, I would have liked to have a conversation with him."

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Black Fives Inc. seeks reconciliation with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-JabbarBlack Fives Inc., owners of trademarked logos commemorating vintage African American basketball teams, asked Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in an article published on the company's website if the two parties could reconcile 15 days after withdrawing a federal lawsuit accusing the Laker star's film company of trademark infringement in connection with his recent documentary, "On the Shoulders of Giants."

Owner Claude Johnson also published an e-mail sent to Abdul-Jabbar and his business manager, Deborah Morales, apologizing for "overreacting" in articles he wrote detailing the lawsuit, asked for a meeting to discuss future projects and offered to provide both Abdul-Jabbar and Morales a pair of Harlem Rens sneakers from Nike or Converse. 

"Finally, will you forgive me?" Johnson wrote. "Will you please consider meeting with me to explore some ways of teaming up?  Ours is a teeny tiny operation compared to the vast presence, fame and backing you have, but sometimes a 'big thing' can benefit from a little spark to make it even bigger and better."

Morales declined to comment when asked for a response to Jones' apology and e-mail. But Morales wrote in an e-mail that Jones' apology came "less than 48 hours" after being given a "legal letter letting him know we would defend our reputations and that we would challenge his statements as well as his trademarks unless he issued a public apology." 

Johnson confirmed in a phone interview that he received the letter, but said he hasn't talked to his lawyer, Kimberly N. Reddick, about it and only glanced at the document enough to see Morales was "threatening libel" on behalf of Abdul-Jabbar's film company, Union Productions. Despite withdrawing the lawsuit without prejudice and issuing an apology, Jones said he stands by most of his accusations that prompted the company to file a federal lawsuit in New York Southern District Court on May 31, 2011. 

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Lawsuit against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar withdrawn

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parrish Black Fives Inc., owners of trademarked logos commemorating vintage African American basketball teams, has withdrawn a federal lawsuit accusing the film company headed by Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of trademark infringement in connection with his recent documentary, "On the Shoulders of Giants," according to court records.

Even though Black Fives withdrew the lawsuit without prejudice on July 28, nearly four months after filing the case, owner Claude Johnson stated in an email that the decision stemmed from financial concerns over a lengthy court case. He kept open the possibility that the organization would refile the complaint, stressing that the "matter is not 'settled.'"

On behalf of Abdul-Jabbar's film company, Union Productions, business manager Deborah Morales issued a strongly worded statement to The Times that condemned the lawsuit and questioned the validity behind it.

"Mr. Johnson of The Black Fives has sadly and unjustly slandered one of the worlds most beloved basketball players who was one of the executive producers on the documentary On the Shoulders of Giants - the story of the greatest basketball team you have never heard of which was made to honor the great black athletes of the 1920's and 1930's as well as provide a classroom teaching tool to students across America," the statement read. "Unfortunately, Mr. Johnson has done nothing more than air his frustration over his lack of a viable legal position. Mr. Johnson never served his claim upon Union/OSG, LLC therefore rendering his claim invalid ... He voluntarily dismissed his claim, which we believe was dismissed because it was without merit or basis." 

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Video: Magic Johnson on his all-time favorite Lakers memory

Magic Johnson was in the middle of answering a reporter's question when a Los Angeles Times backdrop fell forward and was about to tumble onto his head. 

Without looking, he stuck out a giant hand and halted the impending collision. 

Even though the former Lakers star is now 51, and about 20 years removed from learning that he had HIV, he apparently has not lost a step. 

In between hugging his fans and protecting his head from falling objects, Johnson ebulliently reminisced about his playing days before sitting down for an interview with Times columnist Bill Plaschke on Saturday at Loyola Marymount. 

Johnson said his favorite all-time memory with the Lakers was when they beat the Celtics in 1985.

If he could relive a moment from his playing days, it would be when the Lakers trailed the Celtics by a point with three seconds remaining in Game 4 of the NBA Finals in 1987 and he made a 12-foot sky hook to give the Lakers a 107-106 victory. 

"It was just a great moment for us, being on the road, playing against the Celtics," Johnson said. 

Johnson had a hard time deciding who was the worst at catching his impossible no-look pass. 

"They all started out bad," Johnson said with a smile. 

The former point guard said that if he could build a Lakers team around one player, he would choose Kareem Abdul-Jabbar over Kobe Bryant. 

"Kareem is still the most dominant Laker that's ever played," Johnson said. 

-- Melissa Rohlin

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar faces trademark infringement lawsuit over documentary

6a00d8341c506253ef01538e94eaa3970b-320wiBlack Fives Inc., owners of trademarked logos commemorating vintage African American basketball teams, filed a federal lawsuit against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, alleging he committed trademark infringement for his recent documentary "On the Shoulders of Giants," according to the Black Fives' website.

"We played no role," according to the website's statement regarding Abdul-Jabbar's documentary, a 75-minute movie narrated by Jamie Foxx that focuses on the first all-black basketball team, the Harlem Rens (also known as the New York Renaissance), and the effect of that basketball team on the sport and society. "We are not involved or affiliated with any aspect of the film. We did not assist in any part of the film. We did not endorse or sponsor the film, or any events related to it. We did not grant permission for the use in the film of our merchandise in the film. We did not grant permission for the use in the film of our copyrighted photograph of John Isaacs, posing in 2003 wearing our New York Rens gear."

Abdul-Jabbar's business manager, Deborah Morales, didn't return a call for comment, but the website statement alleges that Abdul-Jabbar's film company said, "Everything was cleared legally and properly."

Among other allegations in the Black Fives' lawsuit:

-- Abdul-Jabbar and his film company never requested permission to use images;

-- Black Fives Inc. sent a "cease and desist" letter in 2008 asking the film company to stop using the trademarks;

-- The website statement shares apparent emailed conversations between Black Fives Inc. and Morales dating back to 2006 when owners were initially approached about the film, stating it was based on "common knowledge that our company was a known leading resource for research, information, artifacts, merchandise and other materials relating to the New York Rens."

-Black Fives also alleges Abdul-Jabbar's film company decided to use the images without authorization and that efforts to reach a compensation agreement went ignored.

--Even though the article states that the organization withdrew the complaint without prejudice, the organization may re-file the complaint in the future. 


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 'On the Shoulders of Giants' celebrates the Harlem Rens

Lakers Q&A: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 'I don't expect my relationship with the team to continue beyond this point'

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar questions Scottie Pippen's argument that LeBron James ‘may be the greatest player to ever play’

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at

Photo: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Donaldson of the Dallas Mavericks in a 1988 playoff game. Credit: Reed Saxon / Associated Press

Dwyane Wade beats Kobe Bryant, say TrueHoop bloggers


--A roundtable of TrueHoop bloggers all selected Dwyane Wade as the league's best shooting guard over Kobe Bryant. 

--The Times' Lance Pugmire says how the NFL ending its lockout won't necessarily speed up the NBA's effort in reaching a new collective bargaining agreement.

--The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding contends that many of the Lakers will benefit from a lockout-shortened season. 

--Ball Don't Lie's Kelly Dwyer details Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's anger at Michael Olowokandi.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky breaks down how some of the free agent power forwards would fit in with the Lakers. 

--ESPN the Magazine's Chris Palmer ranks Bryant as the NBA's best shooting guard.

--Silver Screen and Roll's WildYams expresses concern over the NBA lockout.

Tweet of the Day: "Went for a drive, turned on @710ESPN and heard @RicBucher saying both Kobe & the Lakers would be better off trading him. Wow." -- mcten (ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin)

Rick Friedman Reader Comment of the Day: "I think we have to figure out a way to get Chris Paul. A big 3 of Kobe/Paul/Bynum would be perfect. Pick up a strong power forward who can defend, like a Chuck Hayes or someone like that, and we'll be primed for the championship." -- Gilberto Rocky Portillo

-- Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant took a measured approach during the 2010-11 season because of injuries. Credit: Mark D. Smith / US Presswire / Feb. 27, 2011



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