The league’s only six-time MVP said his prognosis is optimistic.
This is only the latest in a series of setbacks for Abdul-Jabbar, who was the league’s all-time leading scorer when he retired in 1989.
In 1983 his home was consumed in a fire, taking with it his valuable collection of oriental rugs and 3,000 jazz albums. This contributed to his bankruptcy four years later.
Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball ranks Abdul-Jabbar as the third greatest player of all time-behind Bill Russell and Michael Jordan, and ahead of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird-but only after calling him a ‘ninny’ about 200 times during the course of the 700-page book.
David Halberstam’s The Breaks of the Game recounts the incident after Johnson’s first game as a pro. The then-20-year-old hugged Abdul-Jabbar after the center hit a game winning skyhook. “You’ve got to pace yourself,” the veteran told the rookie, in essence.
Abdul-Jabbar’s basketball exploits and cameo appearance in Airplane, the legendarily politically incorrect film in which an El Al flight had a beard and an elderly white woman “spoke jive” with a young Samuel L. Jackson, are well known.
That’s too bad, because this accessible book recovers the forgotten story of the all-black battalion that served in the Battle of the Bulge and other European campaigns. Abdul-Jabbar learned about the battalion from a family friend during his childhood. His purpose in writing the book was to honor their service by letting a younger generation know what they had done.
Although as a Celtics fan I had a visceral dislike for Abdul-Jabbar during my childhood and remember fans mobbing him as they stormed the floor after the Celtics’ victory in Game 7 of the NBA championship series, I do wish him well in his recovery and do recommend that people read his book.