Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, and he played on five championship teams as a member of the Lakers. He isn’t the first to be given a statue outside of the Staples Center in Los Angeles, but he is the latest to receive this honor.
The statue was unveiled in a ceremony on Friday afternoon, in advance of the Lakers home game against the Phoenix Suns.
Abdul-Jabbar is a semi-controversial figure, due to his difficult personality. His on-court accomplishments are beyond reproach, but his disinterest in developing relationships off the court is likely the main reason why his statue unveiling came after those of Magic Johnson, Chick Hearn, and others.
Abdul-Jabbar acknowledged this during his ceremony, and at least on the surface seemed apologetic for calling out the Lakers organization in advance of this process. From Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles:
Abdul-Jabbar’s statue, or lack thereof, was a topic of controversy last season after the Hall of Fame center complained about not having one erected in his honor. Abdul-Jabbar referenced his comments in his speech after the unveiling when he singled out Mitch Kupchak, Jeanie Buss, Jerry Buss and AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke.
“I don’t know if you remember I had a little bit too much to say about the fact that it hadn’t happened right away and it got testy but they were patient with me,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “They understood what was going on. … About three or four years ago, Tim made me a promise that this statue would be here and sure enough, he kept his word.”
As inappropriate as it was for Abdul-Jabbar for to demand this honor through the media, it’s tough to argue that it wasn’t deserved.
All hatchets have been sufficiently buried for now, and Kareem finally has his statue.