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.