A Reason To Remember

Darius Soriano —  May 20, 2011

If we’re being honest, openly complaining about not having a statue built in your honor is not the best way to endear yourself to the public or those that you hope to build said statue. Those types of statements illustrate a true lack of understanding how honors like this are really related to humblenss, graciousness, and likeability, not the actual achievements and contributions that earn the statue in the first place.

However, that’s where we are as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has taken to twitter, TV, and any other medium he can find to discuss how he feels “slighted” and “highly offended” that he has not yet been honored by the Lakers with a statue as former greats Magic Johnson and Jerry West have been. And while we’ve also learned that Kareem’s dissatisfaction with the organization has deeper roots than the lack of being embronzed in front the Staples Center, the fact that this (supposed) lack of acknowledgement is described as the straw that broke the camel’s back is perplexing.

I mean, can not having a statue built in your honor really be considered a slight? Apparently, Kareem thinks so.

And while many have and will take their shots at Kareem for his thought process and speaking out at all, his actions actually led me to a different conclusion entirely. Rather than deride the “Captain”, I’m reminded that this is who the man is. He’s outspoken, surly, and someone that has said and acted however he felt best regardless of how he’s perceived after the fact. And while his positions are always logical, he doesn’t always position himself in a light that has the public favoring his side. It’s how he was his entire playing career and I’m not sure why we expect it to be any different regardless of how long he’s retired.

Understand, I’m not upset with Kareem. He’s not insulted anyone nor done anything wrong to the Lakers. He’s spoken out about what he felt were issues that affected him and him alone. The fact that all don’t agree with his approach doesn’t make him wrong.

So rather than focus on how his tack might have been misguided, I’d actually prefer to use his speaking out as a reason to remember why the concept of him having a statue in the first place is a good idea; to celebrate how great a player he actually was.

I’ve always believed that Jabbar is one of the two or three players that can claim to be the best of all time. A brief rundown of his career and all that he achieved only reinforces this idea (look at his basketball-reference page). His 6 champhionships, 6 MVP awards, all-time leading scoring mark, and Finals MVP’s over a decade apart speak to peak greatness and longevity that, when combined into a single career, no other player in NBA history can match (not Jordan, Magic, Wilt, or anyone else). If you bring in his college dominance and how rules were changed to limit his effectiveness, the argument only moves in his direction further. Not to mention how his signature shot is the single most devastating offensive weapon basketball has ever seen.

The man is a legend but is often forgotten when discussions of who the true greats of the game are. Yes, his grating nature with the media hasn’t helped him. Neither has the way that he’s spoken up about how he’s been slighted over the years (this latest dustup being another example in a line that includes lack of coaching opportunities or front office jobs that’s been passed over for). But, the man’s accomplishments as a player are essentially unmatched.

So today, I remember all that was great about Kareem. He may not have chosen the best way to get his name back into the conversation of all-time greats, but now that he has I’m going to use this opportunity to remember him for what he was: a hell of a basketball player whose ability to earn the support of fans never rivaled his ability to demolish his opponents. Not everyone is politic enough to get everything they want without ever looking wrong. But the basis of what this honor would symbolize should not be lost in the discussion.

Darius Soriano

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27 responses to A Reason To Remember

  1. Asking for a statue to be built in your honor doesn’t rub people the right way and he won’t get any sympathy going public with it.

    Having said that the fact Kareem doesn’t have a statue IS a slight. I don’t think he should have got one before Magic but he should have got one right before or right after Jerry West.

    The Lakers should say right now, Kareem is going to get his, Kobe will get his after he retires and after that no more statues.

  2. No way Cap gets one before West. West deservedly was the first Laker statue. The man gave blood, sweat and tears for almost 50 years to the organization. All those losses to Boston. That breakthrough ring. Then all those years he was in the organization and a GM.

    Magic, lifelong laker, part owner, identified as part of the team.

    Kareem, great contributions. But only spent part of his career in LA. He was only a special assistant for a few years. Didn’t have any other role with the organization.

    This isn’t a ranking of greatest players, which Kareem would be at the top ahead of those two. This is of Laker figures.

    West, Magic and then Kareem is the proper order.

    Love Kareem, but there’s something to be said about the fact that he couldn’t get a coaching job with anyone else. Lakers gave him a chance and he wasn’t able to parlay it. At a certain point, he has to look within himself and ask why he’s not getting opportunities. It can’t be just people blackballing him. If players are seeking out Hakeem, Ewing, etc for coaching, why not Kareem?

    If he wants to coach that badly, then establish a big man camp and demonstrate how good he can be. He starts turning out polished big men, you bet teams will come calling about coaching jobs.

    There’s a deeper story here and we’re just hearing Kareem’s part of it.

  3. Archon, uhh…Elgin…Baylor…?

    Maybe revealing two statutes at one time would give each guy a little less focus, but now that the Lakers have committed to KAJ being the next statute seems like an unfortunate development in my eyes to Baylor. Of course Baylor was not as central as West was to the franchise after their playing careers, but he was equally great a player, and his career began prior to West’s. It would have made sense to have statutes for West and Baylor go up at the same time.

    Instead, now the Lakers probably don’t want to built a Kareem statute immediately with all this publicity being so fresh in mind. If they wait 2-3 years for the Kareem statute, Baylor will be nearing 80.

  4. I look at it this way. Why do the Lakers need statues to begin with? The Bulls have Jordan’s statue outside of the United Center. But let’s be honest. Michael Jordan basically WAS the Chicago Bulls. The Lakers are not in the same situation. They have multiple Hall of Famers. They have multiple legends throughout their storied history. Someone is bound to be left out. And arguments can be made all around. Yes, West has meant more to the Lakers organization. But Kareem has a strong case for being the best overall (high school, college and pro) basketball player ever.

    The Hall of Fame players have their jerseys in the rafters. That is good enough. But since the Lakers opened this can of worms they need to give Cap his statue and stop there.

  5. That Kareem doesn’t have a statue YET is not a slight, considering the Lakers-related people who have already been honored in that fashion. The Lakers statues are clearly being given to those individuals who have been most closely associated with the Lakers organization, and Johnson, Hearn, and West are above Kareem in that ranking. I think Kobe is, as well, but it would be appropriate to honor Kareem ahead of him.

    If Worthy or Wilt or Goodrich got a statue before Kareem, that would be a slight. Arguably, same with Elgin. But no slight YET.

  6. I agree Rogers, once you start giving people statues, especially with a successful organization like the Lakers, players are inevitably going to start feeling left out. Yes, I’m sure it’s crossed Elgin Baylor’s mind why Jerry West gets one and he doesn’t, I’m sure it will cross Shaq’s mind(after all how many Lakers were the best player on 3 championship teams), I’m sure it even cross the minds of secondary great players like Worthy and probably Gasol down the line.

    I think everyone would have been okay with just Magic getting one, or even just Chick, but once they opened it up it was always going to cause problems.

  7. First, Oscar De La Hoya has a statue outside the staples center…why? He was a great boxer and all, but why is it at the staples center.

    I pretty sure that this is stemming from him not becoming a full time assistant. Person came in as a special assistant to “handle” ron artest for a year and then became an assistant. Kareem pretty much turned Bynum from chopped liver to a potential star and what he got in return was a pay cut. I’m not saying Person didn’t deserve it but I’m sure that didn’t rub Kareem the right way. From what Kareem is saying he wanted to have a long term role and relationship with the organization, but the lakers kept him at arms length.

  8. The statutes are AEG’s thing and not the Buss. This is why De La Chump has a statute and Cap does not. In short, his statute frustration is way misplaced. As far as his complaints about being given FO opportunities, that’s easy: the Cap’s personality is what limited him. Larry Nird certainly had no issue finding work outside of Boston for the same reason McHale, isiah and others have: they are well liked. The Cap is too much of a sour puss to get work – so instead of recognizing his personality shortfalls he blames the Bus’s.

  9. Darius:

    Okay, I’ll bite…

    If KAJ is one of the ‘two or three’ players who you believe should be in the discussion for the GOAT… assuming one of the other two is MJ, who’s the third?

    * * *

    I know this is contrarian, but as a kid, I always preferred the cerebral, ‘brooding’ Kareem to the more affable, kind of kiss-ass-y Magic. James was my favorite of them all, but Kareem’s thorniness and kind of distant-intellectualism was very attractive to me, how he would answer a question tailor made for platitudes with a thoughtful discourse on black history or jazz…. For what it’s worth, I thought he was cool as hell but what made him so cool was antithetical to the notion he would have any interest in something as lame as getting his own statue. He seemed above it all, which I admired although I know many did not, but this is the kind of nonsense I’d expect from Iverson, Vince Carter, or even the mighty Antoine Walker.

  10. The “talking heads” too often determine who is great and who is not – see Michael Jordan.

    A player is great based on what he brings to the court for both himself and his team – period.

    If the rest of the hopheads in the media don’t like that they can go F*** themselves.

    Of course they control the discourse for most of the rest of us so that ain’t going to happen.

    For me it means I ignore all these awards and ‘best’ crap that are voted on by the media. They truely don’t mean anything.

  11. Craig, I wouldn’t even trip on that. You’re right; a lot of people want you to agree with them and are insulted when you don’t. Don’t play attention to most of that stuff.

  12. Lil Pau, you may be contrarian, but you aren’t alone either.

    I liked Magic and all, but he was so loud and brassy (and where was the “D”?, etc.)

    I read Kareem’s books and knew he liked jazz and had thought deeply about religion and politics and race, and thought of him on the court as a fully engaged karate opponent (a la his Bruce Lee encounters).

    He’s probably a difficult guy and all that, but he’s always sounded quite sensible to me, even if a little fussy about it.

    As a kid, I saw him eating in Nate ‘n’ Al’s deli in Beverly Hills. I’d read his books so I didn’t want to bug him while he was eating. My Dad pushed me to go ask for Kareem’s autograph. I got it, but I felt bad about it.

  13. Funky Chicken May 20, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Cry me a river. Poor Kareem. I guess the adoration of an entire city, a year-long retirement celebration during his final year, his number being retired, and a part-time coaching job (coaching just ONE player) for which he received health insurance that he used to cover the cost of his leukemia treatment isn’t enough “respect”.

    “I want a coaching job. No, make that an assistant coaching job with a playoff share. No, make that a part-time gig coaching one player, with a reduction in work but no reduction in pay. No, make that a statue. What, I don’t get all that? Then I guess you just don’t respect me.”

    I have always maintained that Kareem was the greatest Laker ever. I still feel that way. He is, apparently, also one of the bigger jackasses to have played for this organization if he feels “disrespected” by the treatment he has received.

  14. i listened to kareem being interviewed on KLAC and he was just pathetic. basically he is pissed because the lakers refused to treat him like a current superstar (i.e. contributing on the court) even though he has a very minor role with the team now. he wasn’t allowed to sit with the players! they never let him be a head coach! the lakers should put a statue of kareem at staples, but it should only be about one foot tall. the guy is totally unaware of how he created the situation where no team wants him around. anyway, he was a great player but he is a disappointment as a person.

  15. Kareem is a great lakers, probably the best big man NBA had ever seem, but I think he won’t get a statue.

    I agree with Rogers : “Michael Jordan basically WAS the Chicago Bulls. The Lakers are not in the same situation. They have multiple Hall of Famers. They have multiple legends throughout their storied history. Someone is bound to be left out.” But like what Darius always say, this is the kind of situation a lot of teams will rather have.

    We got West & Magic statues because they define a era & chapter in Lakers history. Jordan & Russell defined their eras in their franchise. Kareem is brilliant but he didn’t spearhead the showtime.

    Kareem is my favourite center but there is only this much bronze statues we can have around Staple.

  16. Obviously no one knows but Kareem, but from what I remember and understand, I’d imagine the roots of his frustration with Laker ownership go back to the early 80s, when Magic got a whopping contract extension from Dr. Buss just a few years into his career, with numbers that far eclipsed Kareem’s salary. This was at a time when Kareem was still unquestionably the leading force and most potent player on the team, not to mention the captain. Subsequent slights, whether real or perceived, have probably piled on.

    It’s certainly a testament to Kareem’s focus as a player, and his love and respect for Magic and his teammates, that this was never a problem during his playing days. Plenty of athletes have let discontent creep into their play, and whatever you think of Kareem, that was never the case.

    Personally, Kareem was always my favorite player, and though he’s been cordial with me the few times I’ve met him over the years and spoken to him as a fan, I am fully aware of how prickly he can come across, and this latest episode certainly doesn’t help.

    However, to anyone who is using Statuegate to somehow denigrate his accomplishments on the court, or to minimize his contributions to the Lakers (and Bucks, and Bruins): You are way, way off. Kareem was as transcendently great as any player could possibly be, and he is without question severely undervalued in today’s GOAT debates.

  17. The De La Hoya statue is an AEG suck-up to Golden Boy Promotions, nothing more.

    He fought a grand total of once at Staples — and he lost his titles that night to Shane Mosley.

    Still, I suppose that tops Magic and West and Gretzky, who never played at Staples at all. At least Chick got to call two+ seasons in the place.

  18. Talked about this when the topic last came up, but with us, it would be like Mt. Olympus if we started putting statues of Laker greats, and half of them would be close to 7 ft!

    Just for fun… Shaq’s gonna get his number retired, that I can live with and will advocate, even.

    Does he get a statue, assuming that Kobe does after Kobe retires?

  19. Kareem will always be one of the most compelling sports figures to me, especially in the age of the brand-driven, innocuous, image beholden modern athlete. Kareem was difficult, intransigent, inscrutable, complex. Kareem had layers; he was real.

  20. I think Kareem misses the point on why the statues are there to begin with. It’s not a basketball thing because Oscar De La Hoya is there. It’s not an athlete thing because Chick Hearn is there. It’s not a Staples Center thing because West, who never played a game at Staples is there. I think all those figures are there because it’s a Los Angeles pride thing and although Kareem was part of one of the greatest runs in Lakers history, he was still second banana to Magic in terms of who we perceived to be the face of that era (That counts a lot).

    I love Kareem, but all of the statues commemorate people who contributed to Los Angeles’ professional sports identity for extended periods of time. Kareem is an all-time great Laker and that’s why he should be happy that his jersey hangs from the rafters.

  21. Kareem is easily one of the best ever.
    without him even Magic could’n win
    The Lakers need to acknowledge that…he gave a lot to the purple and gold.
    he’s got his peculiar ways of act and think. Reasons for which I loved him as a player from day one. He brought me to love and play basketball: an athlete that could think other than only play.
    In my Laker-mind, I already give him a statue. thanks for all, Cap.

  22. He complains that he didn’t get a playoff bonus like the other assistant coaches. First, he agreed to the contract he signed with the team. Second, he didn’t coach the team, he coached one player (Bynum). That’s why he was considered a “special” assistant coach. He didn’t work with anyone but Andrew, so why should he get paid the same as Shaw, Hamblin, Cleamons, and Person? He’s bitter that the Lakers never gave him a chance to coach the team since his retirement. The Lakers watched him be a bad teammate for over 10 years. Why would guy who was considered to be a “loner” get the #1 coaching job in all of basketball? The Lakers are about winning, that’s the brand. They wouldn’t sacrifice winning for being loyal to a former player. And I wouldn’t want it that way, either.

    Kareem, statistically speaking, is probably the greatest Laker of all-time. There was never a doubt in my mind that he would get a statue outside Staples. He knew it too. He’s complaining about timing and nothing else. I think that’s trivial. Magic got his because he’s the most beloved Laker player ever. West got his because he’s done more for the Lakers than anyone else. He won a championship as a player and put together the 80s teams and brought both Shaq and Kobe to LA. Chick got his because he was the voice of LA basketball and the greatest play-by-play guy of all-time. It’s not like they gave James Worthy a statue and not Kareem. The guys that have a statue are revered more in LA than Kareem. He’s next in line, no doubt about it. So get over it. Your statue is coming, Kareem.

  23. @20

    If you really want to make it a Los Angeles thing as oppose to a Lakers thing then Kareem brought a basketball championship to LA before both West and Magic. Did you forget about his dominance at UCLA? During that golden era of Bruin dominance Kareem was the best of many great players to come through Westwood. When the Lakers were still getting owned by the C’s in the NBA the Bruins ruled college basketball.

    As I said in a previous post Kareem’s case can definitely be made. That is why I’m not a big fan of the statues thing to begin with.

  24. @24,

    That’s why I said “professional sports identity”. Based on your argument, Kareem should then be waiting in a long line, behind Mr. Rushmore like sports figures: Jackie Robinson and his UCLA dominance comes to mind.

  25. The point that no one is getting is that he wants it before he dies. He was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia and it scared the crap out of him. He was shown his mortality. He wants the statue while he is alive so he can celebrate his accomplishment with his family with pride. He doesn’t want it to be after he has died and his family looks upon it as something that reminds them of his death (a thing he never got to see). He wants it in celebration not in death. The man has been misunderstood most of his life and that’s a shame.

  26. It’s completely understandable why he’s upset, since there are statues at Staples of people who deserve it much less than Kareem (de la Hoya & Gretzky). Oscar definitely has no business having a statue at Staples (yes he’s from LA and represents this city, but not Staples…should we then place a statue for Paul Pierce because he’s a great player and is from LA?).

    Kareem deserves a statue over Gretsky (who played longer for the Oilers and had all of his championships there…Marcel Dionne is probably more deserving of a statue as a representative of the Kings than Gretsky, although Dionne never got them as far as the finals). Although Kareem did play for another team, he played 14 years for the Lakers, plus his UCLA legacy, in addition to being one of the greatest.

    They really should’ve stopped with Magic’s statue, because he personifies the Lakers at their peak and is symbolic of the team. And I think most people understand having one statue of a great player outside an arena/ballpark who represents the team and will not argue with that. But when you start putting up more than one, then you make a valid case for so many people deserving statues, and many will feel slighted. Once Kareem gets one, then you have a strong case for Baylor, and Worthy, and Kobe, and maybe even Shaq & Wilt.

    What AEG should do is, once Farmers Field is completed down the block, make an LA sports memorial area in a central area where the can celebrate all the sports figures who represent LA. Move over all the Staples statues to that area, except Magic’s which you leave as the lone symbol of Staples Center & the Lakers. Create a LA sports memorial/museum in another area for everyone else where you can celebrate the other Lakers, Kings, Dodgers, Raiders, etc.