When he retired at the age of 42, he took with him records for most points scored by an NBA player, most blocked shots, most MVP awards, most appearances in All-Star games, and most seasons played. To put it simply, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar composed the most impressive personal and team accomplishments in the history of the NBA! He was named Rookie of the Year, was a member of 6 NBA championship teams, was a six-time NBA MVP, was named NBA Finals MVP twice, was selected the All-Star team 19 times, league scoring champion twice, and selected as a member of the NBA 35th and 50th Anniversary All-Time Teams. And, no one was too amazed as Kareem had been a dominant force in basketball since his high school days.
Kareem’s first or original name was Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor (he would later change it to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). He went by Lew Alcindor. His basketball dominance began in high school, where he led Power Memorial High School to a 72 game winning streak and an overall record of 96 and 6. As a sophomore at Power Memorial, he averaged 19 points and 18 rebounds for an undefeated team. His high school team was unbeaten in Alcindor’s junior season as well. The next year, for the first time in 72 games, they lost a game to DeMatha Catholic High School (of Maryland), 46-43. It was the only loss for Power in 3 years. In 1965 Lew Alcindor finished his high school career with 2,067 points and 2,002 rebounds, both of which are New York City records. Kareem was the greatest high school basketball player of his time.
He chose UCLA to continue with his basketball development, and once again, he was a dominant force in college. Back in those days, freshmen were not eligible to play varsity, but in a exhibition game, with 31 points, 21 rebounds and 7 blocked shots Alcindor led his freshman team to a victory over UCLA’s 2- time NCAA Championship varsity team, 75-60. During his first ever varsity game (66-67), Lew Alcindor set a UCLA scoring record with 56 points. He averaged 29 points and 15.5 rebounds with a .667 shooting percentage for the year as UCLA went 30-0. They would end the season with a victory in the NCAA Championships against University of Dayton, 79-64. Lew Alcindor would go on to lead UCLA to 2 more NCAA Championships; he won a national title every year in varsity basketball in college! Alcindor finished his UCLA career with 3 National Championships, Named 1st Team All-American 3 Times (67,68 & 69), selected as Player of the Year in 1967 and 1969 by The Sporting News, United Press International, the Associated Press and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Named Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament in 1967, 1968 and 1969. Finished lording over the NCAA he then took his game to the NBA.
He was drafted as the first pick in the 1969 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks were a young team in only in it’s second season. In his first year Alcindor averaged 28.8 points (2nd in the NBA) and 14.5 rebounds (3rd) to lead the Bucks to an improved record of 56-26. They would reach the Eastern Division finals only to be beaten by the Knicks. Lew was awarded the League’s Rookie of the Year Award.
After acquiring the legendary Oscar Robertson, the Milwaukee Bucks went on to become a dominant team and recorded 66 victories in the 70-71 season. Alcindor was awarded the NBA Most Valuable Player Award and his first NBA Scoring Title. The Bucks went on to dominate in the playoffs, going 12 and 2. They swept the Baltimore Bullets in 4 games in the NBA finals. He had won his first NBA title and was named NBA Finals MVP. It was after this series that he announced that his legal name was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which translates to “noble, servant of the powerful one”.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went on to win the NBA Most Valuable Player award during the 71-72, and 72-73 seasons. In 1974 the Bucks were once again in the NBA Finals, but would lose to the Boston Celtics. Kareem asked for a trade during the 74-75 season. In 1975, the Lakers acquired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and reserve center Walt Wesley from the Bucks for center Elmore Smith, guard Brian Winters, and rookies Dave Meyers and Junior Bridgeman.
Kareem won the MVP award in the 75-76 season, but the Lakers failed to reach the playoffs. He again was named MVP in 76-777 when the Lakers made the playoffs, only to be stopped by the eventual champion Portland Trail Blazers. In 1979 the Lakers drafter Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and this would begin a run of Championships. The Lakers would go on to win the 5 NBA titles in the next 10 years. All the while Kareem was putting up dominant performances game in ad game out.
When Kareem retired in 1989, it marked the end of a dominating era in the NBA. Kareem left the game as the NBA’s all-time scorer (38,387 points / 24.6 ppg), 17,440 rebounds (11.2 rpg), 3,189 blocks, and a .559 field-goal percentage in a career over 20 years and 1,560 games. He had scored in double figures in 787 straight games. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had cemented his name in history as the greatest center in the history of the NBA and more than likely, of all time!