Who is Lewis Alcindor? A basketball legend and pioneer
Lewis Alcindor, Jr., or Lew Alcindor as often called, was an American basketball player who revolutionized the game. As both player and coach, he was part of multiple NCAA championships. He won three national players of the year awards during his collegiate career at UCLA in the 1960s under legendary coach John Wooden. After college, Alcindor changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and played on six NBA championship teams with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s before retiring in 1989.
Introduction to Lewis Alcindor
Lewis Alcindor was one of the most dominant players in basketball history. Standing at 7-feet-2-inches, he towered over his opponents and used his size and strength to significant effect, averaging a double-double throughout his college career. He was also a gifted shot blocker, leading the nation in blocks per game three times. In 1967, he changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and went on to have an even more successful career in the NBA, becoming one of the league’s all-time leading scorers. He was a six-time NBA champion, a two-time Finals MVP, and a 19-time All-Star. He retired as the NBA’s all-time top scorer, with 38,387 points (19.6 points per game). Though he made headlines primarily for his skills on the court, Abdul-Jabbar was also an outspoken social activist who drew attention to racial inequality and America’s mistreatment of Native Americans.
Kareem took the name Abdul-Jabbar after converting to Islam in 1971. But it wasn’t until 1985 that he embraced another religion: Buddhism. I was not raised in any particular religion or culture outside my Islamic upbringing, says Kareem Abdul-Jabbar about Buddhism.
Lewis Alcindor was born in New York City on April 16, 1947. His parents, Cora Lillian and Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Sr. met while working at the post office. Alcindor was a talented basketball player from a young age, and he attended Power Memorial Academy, where he led his team to three straight city championships. After high school, Alcindor accepted a scholarship to play at UCLA, where he would go on to have an incredible collegiate career. In 1967, Alcindor’s brother John replaced him as the centre for the Bruins following Lew’s graduation with a degree in sociology. The following year, Lew served as an assistant coach for California State University-Los Angeles (Cal State LA). During that time, he learned what it meant to be African American playing ball during that era.
After this experience, Lew became more involved with activism and went back to college to complete his degree at UCLA and get into law school. He graduated with honours in 1970 before earning a master’s degree in sociology two years later. In 1971, Lew returned home to take care of his mother, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer which had spread throughout her body. She died just four months after he arrived home. In 1972, while still mourning the loss of his mother, Lew received an invitation to try out for the US Olympic Basketball Team. He impressed them so much that they chose him to replace Bill Bradley on the roster due to Bradley’s professional commitments with New York Knicks. Despite not making any significant contributions to team USA in Munich, Germany, during those games, Alcindor continued pursuing a professional career after returning home by being drafted by both Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers in 1974.
In college, Alcindor played for legendary coach John Wooden at UCLA. He was a three-time NCAA champion, and during his time at UCLA, the team went 88-2. Alcindor was also a two-time Olympic gold medalist, winning in 1968 and 1972. After college, he changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks as the first overall pick in the 1969 NBA Draft. During his 20-year career in the NBA, Abdul-Jabbar won six league championships and six regular season MVP awards. He made 18 All-Star Games, including five as a starter; 15 All-NBA First Teams; 12 All-Defensive First Teams; 10 scoring titles; two steals titles; two blocked shots titles; and was the league’s all-time leading scorer at the time of his retirement in 1989 (38,387 points). His number 33 jersey has been retired by both the Bucks and Lakers. He was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, ranking third on the list behind only Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. In 2005, ESPN voted him the most fantastic centre of all time.
Alcindor was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1969 and quickly became one of the most dominant players in the league, winning Rookie of the Year. He changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1971 and continued to rack up accolades, including six MVP awards and six NBA championships. He also holds the record for most points scored in a career. After retiring from the NBA in 1989, Abdul-Jabbar became a coach, author, and social activist. In 2016, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In 2017, Abdul-Jabbar received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He founded Giant Steps School for children with learning disabilities and acquired book deals with Putnam Publishing Group and Random House Publishing Group.
In 2009, he published Mycroft Holmes, the first of three novels featuring Sherlock Holmes’s elder brother. His second novel, Scarlet Sister Mary, was released in 2012. The third novel in the series, The Adventures of Sir Boast-A-Lot: The Good Knight Without Fear, took more than 20 years to complete and was released on November 7, 2018.
Lewis Alcindor was one of the most dominant players in basketball history. He changed the game with his size and athleticism and was a significant force in helping the UCLA Bruins win three consecutive NCAA championships. After college, Alcindor had an incredible career in the NBA, winning six titles with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. He was also a two-time MVP and a six-time All-Star. In addition to his on-court accomplishments, Alcindor was a pioneer off the court. He was one of the first African-American players to speak out against racism and injustice and used his platform to fight for social change. As a result, Alcindor became deeply respected by fans and peers alike. For example, when John Thompson recruited Alcindor to play at Georgetown University (even though Thompson himself did not want him), Thompson stated that he made me proud of myself. And when he retired from the league, many former opponents also expressed their admiration for him. In 1996, James Naismith even named him one of the top 50 greatest American athletes.