Even through his storied legacy includes collecting five of his six NBA titles with the Lakers, establishing himself (in the opinion of many) as the best center of all time and finishing as the league's all-time leading scorer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has lately made public gripes about his former employer.
He's argued that the Lakers' failure to erect a statue in his honor symbolizes the organization's slighting of him. He felt offended he was never offered a significant coaching position beyond being a part-time special assistant coach. And he believed that his introverted -- and to many -- off-putting personality made him a distant figure in the organization. At the time, I expressed the opinion that some of his grievances were exaggerated, but that was how he felt. But there's at least one memory with the Lakers that hasn't soured Abdul-Jabbar: having the opportunity to coach Lakers center Andrew Bynum.
In a column for ESPN.com, Abdul-Jabbar argued that part of the NBA's current labor problems stem from the fact that more and more college basketball players are entering the pro ranks too early, with many undeveloped and immature players sapping team finances. He held up Bynum as one of the exceptions, showing a willingness to immediately correct his mistakes.
"While helping with the Lakers, I had the opportunity to work with Andrew Bynum, who wanted to learn and gained the knowledge he needed to be an important player for his team," Abdul-Jabbar wrote. "Andrew was able to use some of the fundamental moves I showed him as a foundation for his game. Before he got to the Lakers, he hadn't played many games. At 17 years of age, he had played in only two high school seasons, and both of those seasons were shortened by injuries. However, Andrew worked hard to master a basic repertoire of skills at both ends of the court. As he gained confidence in his ability to get things done, he became a reliable factor for the Lakers' success. Andrew got there, but it took three years for it to come together."