Los Angeles Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar left behind a lasting legacy after calling it a career in 1989. Along with a long list of accolades including winning six NBA titles, six NBA MVP awards, two NBA Finals MVPs, 19 All-Star Game appearances, and finishing his playing days as the league all-time leading scorer, Jabbar had arguably the most unguardable shot in NBA history.
Jabbar’s skyhook was lethal. Virtually unstoppable. A go-to move whenever the UCLA Bruins, Milwaukee Bucks, and Lakers needed to get two points on the board during his time with those teams. The shot was so effective that even fellow legends at the center position like Wilt Chamberlain, Robert Parish, Moses Malone and other great players of that era found it impossible to defend.
In a recent interview with Lakers Nation, Kareem discussed the origin of his skyhook and how his former UCLA head coach, John Wooden, initially wasn’t sold on the patented shot.
Ryan Ward: Your book, Coach Wooden And Me: Our 50-Year Relationship On And Off The Court, also indicates that John Wooden wasn’t that excited about your hook shot at first, but that he soon came around. What happened to change his mind?
KAJ: “I think he just saw that I could put it in regularly. It was a high-percentage shot. He just told me to adjust where I shot it on the court so that I could be in a good position on the court. Take advantage of other bigs.”
How did you learn the skyhook? What’s the origin of the shot that you made so famous?
KAJ: “For me, I learned the shot, there was a guy that helped my grade school coach. His name was Farrell Hopkins. The guy that helped him was named George Hejduk. He worked with me when I was in the fifth grade getting the fundamentals of the George Mikan drill. It’s a drill where you work in front of the basket, you shoot the ball off the glass with either hand, and you get the footwork down. You work on you ambidexterity, and you learn how to use the glass. It’s a really good drill.
“I saw him working on that in the fifth and sixth grade, so by the time I got to college I had the shot down. It wasn’t something that was foreign to me. I was very familiar with it, and I could shoot it and make it just about anytime I wanted to.”