He is an All Time NBA & Laker Great. What Are You Waiting For?
(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on May 19th, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)
When I first heard retired basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar talking about the slight of not receiving a statue by the Los Angeles Lakers it seemed unseemly to me. A statue is not something you should have to lobby or campaign for. I can’t imagine Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. complaining or campaigning for an award. But the truth is, is that many times if you don’t speak up for yourself you will get overlooked, and upon further review if you’re going to be giving out statues then Jabbar is worthy of and should receive one.
Currently there are five statues on display at the Staples Center, with the honor being bestowed to: Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Wayne Gretzky, Oscar De La Hoya, and Chick Hearn.
I can see erecting a statue for West and Magic before Jabbar. Jerry West is the logo for the NBA and post playing days became one of the games best general managers and was instrumental in putting together the talent that lead to more championships for the Lakers.
Magic was and is one the nations most charismatic athletes we have. His business accomplishments in Los Angeles, and his handling of HIV combined with being an all time Laker/NBA great make him a transcendent figure. Further, both played their entire careers with the Lakers and there is something magical about having a great one from the beginning of their career to the end. Alex Rodriguez will never be as much a New York Yankee as Derek Jeter or Don Mattingly.
However, it is the next three getting statue’s without Jabbar getting one that makes me go Hhhmmm (That is all you Arsenio Hall). Similar to what Jabbar has said, it is not that these men don’t deserve the honor but what about Kareem? Lets look at them and compare to Jabbar.
Wayne Gretzky may be the Michael Jordan or Babe Ruth of his sport but he didn’t start his career in Los Angeles and he didn’t end his career there either. He was still a great player with L.A. who did make hockey more relevant in the states, and L.A. in particular, but he was not playing like The Great One of his Edmonton Oilers days. I thought the NHL retiring his number was a great touch, I thought the NBA should have followed suit and done the same with Michael Jordan. But — Hold that thought.
Oscar De La Hoya. The Golden Boy. A great Olympic and boxing champion who was the first boxer to win championship belts in six different weight classes. Further, he was a local hero to many. However, as a boxer the Staples Center was not his home like it was for Jabbar. And — Hold that thought.
There are a handful of legendary announcers that do become a part of their team’s lore and history. They often span many generations and touch the heart of the viewers and their fans. They may drive some people crazy but there is no denying their imprint. Such is the case with Chick Hearn. He was one of a kind. However, outside of L.A., a local icon like Hearn is not as known as an all time great player. The jell-o is still jiggling Chick. Rip, but —
Now lets talk about Jabbar. Even though West and Magic were Laker lifers, Jabbar played as many seasons with the Lakers as West, fourteen. And one more then Magic’s thirteen. By comparison, Gretzky played eight in L.A. and ten in Edmonton. Jabbar played on five championship teams with the Lakers. Gretzky did not win a championship in Los Angeles.
For those late to the party Jabbar is the all-time leader in scoring in the NBA. He scored more points than Michael Jordan and more than twice as many points as Magic. He played on six NBA championship teams (five with the Lakers). He won six MVP’s, three of which were with the Lakers. He won a finals MVP with the Lakers and for extra credit as far as his overall L.A. impact, he played on three NCAA winning teams for UCLA.
In fairness to the Lakers, they do not own the L.A. Kings or the Staples Center so if those entities want to honor Gretzky and De La Hoya that of course is their right. Further, it was apparently the death of Chick Hearn that expedited his statue. Still for a player like Jabbar who is in the argument for top five best player of all time, who accomplished so much as a team and individual in the sport and for the Lakers, who played for so many years alongside Magic Johnson, wouldn’t it have made sense to put up their statues together? Magic, who at the time he retired, as the all-time assist leader in the NBA throwing one last pass to the all time leading scorer? That would have been special indeed.
Outside of Michael Jordan soaring through the air, if ever there was a pose that lent itself to being immortalized in a statue it is the skyhook of Kareem Abul-Jabbar. Chick Hearn didn’t get to live to enjoy the moment of his statue, why wait if it is inevitable for Jabbar?
It wasn’t out there before, so I’m glad you brought it to light number 33. But now the rest is up to Lakers to do it and the media to spotlight it or find out why if they don’t. For the record, without an indication of when, the Lakers are on record as saying they will.
Published by Jeff Schubert
Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in-depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media…