On April 22, 1989, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar suited up for his 1,560th and final regular season NBA game at the Forum in Inglewood. Before tip-off, coach Pat Riley, Magic Johnson and others delivered heartfelt speeches in honor of their friend, and during a musical number, the rest of the Lakers playfully rocked the 42-year-old legend in a rocking chair on the court.
The unique ceremony was fitting for a basketball player like no other. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won more MVP awards, played in more All-Star Games and blocked more shots than any other player in NBA history. The long list of accolades accumulated during his 20-year career also includes six championship rings, Rookie of the Year, six MVP awards and 19 All-Star selections. He remains the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points.
Abdul-Jabbar began his career at UCLA, leading the Bruins to three national championships. UCLA went 12–0 in the NCAA tournament during his three years with the team, and he was a three-time All American.
Impressive as his basketball resume may be, Abdul-Jabbar’s impact rises far above athletics. As a writer, cultural critic and activist, he has used his platform and intellect to shape the national conversation on race, politics and many other issues.
He has written 15 books, including two recent memoirs: Becoming Kareem for young readers, and Coach Wooden and Me about his lifelong friendship with famed UCLA coach John Wooden. He continues to write at a prolific pace, penning op-eds for publications including the Hollywood Reporter, Time, and others. In 2019, he joined the writing staff for the Hulu television show Veronica Mars.
In addition to writing, Abdul-Jabbar serves as the chairman of his Skyhook Foundation, whose mission is to bring educational STEM opportunities to underserved communities. In 2016, Jabbar was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama. “Physically, intellectually, spiritually — Kareem is one-of-a-kind,” Obama said during the ceremony. “An American who both illuminates our most basic freedoms and our highest aspirations.”