In an ESPN column ostensibly about how the owners need to get their revenue sharing house in order before they tell the players to take less money — a point with some validity — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar goes off on a tangent. And tells a great story.
Kareem, who has served as a big man assistant for several teams including the Lakers, expresses his frustration with young, pampered and entitled athletes. Kareem (then Lew Alcindor) could not even play varsity college ball as a freshman by NCAA rules, now guys at 19 are jumping to the NBA. He doesn’t like it, and basically says all the classic old-man things save “get off my lawn.”
But he has dealt with it first hand, which leads to a story about one of the biggest all-time No. 1 pick busts, Michael Olowokandi.
I have seen this process firsthand. When I coached for the Clippers, I had to deal with Michael Olowokandi, a player who perfectly fit the description “talented but uncoachable.” At practice, I would attempt to point out Mr. Olowokandi’s faults to him, ones he constantly repeated and resulted in lost possessions for the team or personal fouls that sent him to the bench. His reaction to my attempts to correct his bad habits was to take my input as a personal insult and embarrassment. He told me point-blank that he would not be criticized in front of the team. He stuck to his word and, as a result, had very few successful moments on the court playing the way he wanted to play. He took his place on the list of athletically gifted washouts who have been in and out of the league in the past 10 years.
Well, Abdul-Jabbar can cross the Olowokandi family off the Christmas card list.
Kareem goes on to praise Andrew Bynum for listening and incorporating lessons taught into his game. That relationship had more friction than Kareem lets on, but as immature as Bynum can still be at times (just as J.J. Barea about that) he is far more mature and professional now than when he entered the league. He has come a long way, he just had a ridiculously long way to go.
What was the point of all this… oh, yea. The owners need to get their financial act in order. Yea, that’s it.