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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

50 Years On

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is 70, still has his principled worldview, elan and tenacity--and now a new book about his long friendship with his college coach and mentor, John Wooden.

He is troubled by the "one-and-done" rule in college ball and how it has changed the college game.

Abdul-Jabbar was always more than merely a highly successful basketball player. His skill ultimately gave him a powerful voice, which he has used more frequently than most professional athletes, past and present, to address social injustice.

The Cleveland Muhammad Ali Summit, June 1967. Kareem was still Lew in this photo.

The summit was called to mull over Ali's anti-war statements and draft resistance.  Blacks were by-and-large still divided on the ramifications of  the Vietnam War at the time.  In April, Martin Luther King had for the first time acknowledged publicly his growing anti-war sentiments, calling the U.S. "a leading purveyor of violence" in the war.

In Cleveland the assembled athletes and black business advocates heard Ali out.  Upon leaving UCLA, Lew Alcindor embraced the Muslim faith and changed his name, like Cassius Clay had before him.

The summit was a seminal moment in the history of black dissent.  At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, two track medal winners, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raised their gloved-fists in open protest of racial injustice in the U.S.

And of course disbelieving conservatives and racists were appalled, just as they are today if any social movement for betterment upsets their narrow view of the world while scaring the holy shit out of them.


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