Perhaps the most underrated NBA player of all time, the all-time leading scorer will finally have his legacy cemented forever in the form of a statue outside of Staples Center.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar–born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr. on April 16, 1947–grew up in Manhattan, New York City. He then played basketball under the late, great, John Wooden at UCLA during his college years; where he helped lead the team to three championships.
Drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1969, Alcindor won his first championship alongside the great Oscar Robertson on April 30, 1971; he changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar the following day.
Despite his success in college and during his days with the Bucks, Kareem is most known and recognized for his days as a Los Angeles Laker.
The Lakers traded for Kareem in 1975, but it wasn’t until a young rookie fresh out of Michigan State University named Magic Johnson arrived did the slender giant affectionately nicknamed “Captain” or “Cap” win his second NBA championship. Johnson arrived in 1979, and the two immediately formed a dynamic duo that would see eight NBA Finals appearances and five championship titles.
The MVP Awards
Prior to all of the championship success with the Lakers, Abdul-Jabbar had plenty of individual success as well. He earned six MVP awards–three with the Milwaukee Bucks and three with the Lakers; which is the most ever by any NBA player (Michael Jordan and Bill Russell have five apiece). All six came before his first championship with the Lakers, although his MVP season in 1980 led up to his first Lakers championship run.
Here’s a look at some of the incredible numbers Kareem put up throughout his MVP seasons:
Although “Cap” was already 33 by the time he earned his second championship and began his quest for multiple rings with the Lakers, Kareem led his team the best way he could–with his scoring.
In Magic’s first season, in which the Lakers won their first championship featuring the dynamic duo, Kareem averaged 24.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, and largely led the Lakers in the playoffs as well by stepping up his game and putting up 31.9 points and pulling down 12.1 rebounds per game.
In Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, Kareem badly injured his ankle, but still managed to re-enter the game in the fourth quarter and drop 14 points for a total of 40, en route to a close victory.
That set the stage for Magic Johnson in Game 6 as Kareem wasn’t able to play, but the Magic Man delivered a legendary performance in Kareem’s stead and finalized the championship with 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, and three steals.
The Lakers would then win another championship in 1982 as they once again defeated the 76ers under new head coach, Pat Riley, who replaced Paul Westhead. This officially ignited one of the most exciting eras in basketball, and the team’s style of play was appropriately titled “Showtime.”
Although the shy seven-foot-two giant was by no means considered flashy, Abdul-Jabbar was still the anchor down low for the Lakers while Magic ran the show.
The Lakers were defeated by the Boston Celtics in seven games during the 1984 NBA Finals–with the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird/Lakers-Celtics rivalry in full effect.
The Lakers would get revenge the following season, however, as the Lakers defeated the Celtics in six games during the 1985 NBA Finals.
Kareem, at age 38, still managed to dominate and won his second Finals MVP award (his first coming in 1971); standing out among a star-studded team including Magic, James Worthy, Byron Scott, and Michael Cooper.
His stat line? A remarkable 30.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.0 blocks average throughout the Finals.
Cap recently said during a live in-studio interview with Time Warner Cable SportsNet that the 1985 victory in the Boston Garden was without question, his favorite championship.
The Lakers went on to win back-to-back titles in the 1986-1987 and 1987-1988 seasons against the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons, respectively. Although the big fella was quite advanced in his age at the time (40 and 41, respectively), Kareem was still an intricate piece of the team; averaging 19.2 points during the 1987 playoffs behind James Worthy (23.6 points per game) and Magic Johnson (21.8 points per game).
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