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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar celebrates his 77th birthday on April 16th.

Born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr., Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was born in Harlem, New York on April 16th, 1947. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar started dominating basketball while only in high school, leading Power Memorial Academy’s team to three consecutive New York City Catholic championships with a 71-game winning streak and only losing 2 games total, earning him the nickname “The Tower from Power” and set the New York City high school points record with 2,067 total points. The team also won two national high school boys basketball championships with Abdul-Jabbar.

Rather than trying to play overseas or with the Harlem Globetrotters, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar opted to go through college to push on to the NBA. This decision led to him becoming the most sought-after prospect since Wilt Chamberlain, even schools that were still segregated were willing to change that if it meant recruiting Abdul-Jabbar. Ultimately, he chose to attend UCLA, where he led his freshman team to an undefeated 21-0 season.

The rest of his college career was no different, making varsity his sophomore year breaking the UCLA single-game point record during his first game with 56 points, and leading the team to an 88-win 2-loss three-year record. The only two losses were when Abdul-Jabbar had an eye injury and when USC played an arguably shameful “stall game” due to the shot clock not being used at that point in time, limiting Kareem to 10 points total.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar earned numerous accolades in college alone. He was a three-time national player of the year, three-time unanimous first-team All-American, three-time Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament, three-time Helms Foundation Player of the Year, and first-ever Naismith College Player of the Year. He led the UCLA Bruins to an unprecedented three consecutive NCAA championships which kickstarted a seven-year total streak for UCLA.

Fresh out of college in 1969, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once again had the opportunity to join the Harlem Globetrotters, this time to the tune of $1 million, but stayed steady on his path to the NBA, getting drafted first overall by the Milwaukee Bucks and first overall in the ABA draft by the New York Nets, ultimately choosing the Bucks. In his rookie season, he helped lead the Bucks to second place in their division, finishing the year with 28.8 points per game and 14.5 rebounds per game, second and third in the league respectively, earning him NBA Rookie of the Year.

The following year, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Bucks finished with the best record in the league and swept the Baltimore Bullets in the NBA Finals. Abdul-Jabbar was awarded his first NBA MVP awards and the Finals MVP award for his performance, which included leading the league in scoring with 31.7 points per game and a league-leading 2,596 points. His dominance in Milwaukee would continue through the end of the 1974-1975 season, netting another two league MVP awards and leading the league in various stats each year.

In the 1975-1976 season, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. That year he dominated the league, leading in rebounds with 16.9 per game, 4.12 blocked shots per game, and 3,379 total minutes played and earning his fourth MVP award despite the team finishing with 40 wins and 42 losses. The following year, the Lakers were projected to have a similarly poor year, however, with Abdul-Jabbar’s help that earned his fifth league MVP award, they had the best record in the NBA heading into the playoffs, where they lost in the Western Conference semifinals to Portland.

Despite a broken hand that had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sitting the first 20 games in the 1977-1978 season and most likely costing him a selection for the All-Star game, the first and only time in his 20-year career, he still put up a strong performance the rest of the season. He also had a strong performance the next two seasons, but it still wasn’t enough to earn him a championship ring with the Lakers.

That changed after the Lakers drafted Magic Johnson in the 1979 NBA draft, giving birth to the Lakers’ Showtime dynasty. That same year Kareem Abdul-Jabbar earned his sixth and final league MVP award and helped lead the Lakers to a championship victory. Abdul-Jabbar got his second ring with the Lakers in 1982, followed by a chance for a third, his fourth overall in 1983 when they fell short to the 76ers.

During the 1984-1985 season, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar broke Wilt Chamberlain’s record for most career points in the NBA, eventually reaching 38,387 by the end of his career, a record held until LeBron James broke the record during the 2022-2023 season. That same year Abdul-Jabbar won his second Finals MVP award, averaging 30.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists, and 2 blocks throughout the finals.

During his last three seasons, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Lakers made it to the finals all three years, winning back-to-back in 1987 and 1988 before falling short in 1989. He announced his intentions to retire after the 1988-1989 season, leading to his “retirement tour” that included numerous standing ovations and gifts that ranged from a “Captain Skyhook” yacht to a Persian rug.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar expressed interest in coaching starting in 1995, eventually working as an assistant for the Clippers and SuperSonics, as well as a scout for the Knicks before becoming a special assistant coach for the Lakers from 2005 to 2011. He eventually retired from coaching in 2013.

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