One of the best parts of Tuesday night — a night that will be long, long remembered by basketball fans — was the presence of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. While it seemed his relationship with LeBron had been rocky, Kareem was ever-present as he promised he would be, taking it all in from a front-row seat before passing the proverbial torch to LeBron at midcourt.
In the lead-up to LeBron passing him, Kareem had been suspiciously silent given the public platform he has given himself with his Substack. However, on Wednesday morning, Kareem addressed effectively everything about the night, the moment and his relationship with LeBron James in a Substack post titled “What I Think About LeBron Breaking My NBA Scoring Record.”
First, it should be noted that he offered nothing but effusive praise for LeBron and his accomplishments on and off the court.
My good opinion of LeBron has grown in the two years since I wrote that. His passion for social justice and bettering his community has only increased—and his athleticism has soared to a whole other level of performance.
While it’s true that I have taken a couple minor jabs at him over vaccine protocols—which in my mind was the kind of nudging one teammate does with another—I know that LeBron is too accomplished, mature, and savvy to hold a grudge over something so petty. That’s why I don’t want my fans to in any way tarnish or equivocate his enormous achievement. This is all about LeBron doing something no one else has done, about scoring more points than anyone has been able to in 75 years. There are no “yeah, buts,” just praise where it is rightfully and righteously due.
Bottom line about LeBron and me: LeBron makes me love the game again. And he makes me proud to be part of an ever-widening group of athletes who actively care about their community.
As he notes, Kareem has been critical of LeBron at times, specifically when it came to his stance on the COVID-19 vaccine. While there were plenty of other moments that Kareem praised LeBron and his work away from the court with the two sometimes championing the same cause, the criticisms were the most recent and on everyone’s minds.
A very honest Kareem also addressed why he hasn’t had much of a relationship with LeBron — and admitted it hurt him to recently hear LeBron say he has no relationship with him — through the years as well, taking the blame on the matter.
LeBron said we don’t have a relationship. He’s right—and for that I blame myself. Not for anything I did, but perhaps for not making more of an effort to reach out to him. By nature I have never been a chummy, reaching-out kind of guy (as the media was always quick to point out). I’m quiet, shy, and am such a devoted homebody that you’d think I have agoraphobia.
Despite saying previously he would be front and center if and when LeBron broke the record, there were some questions over whether that would still be the case. Particularly, a quote from Magic Johnson noting that Kareem wouldn’t take being passed well raised some speculation on how Cap would feel now that it was actually happening.
Kareem, though, also addressed Magic’s comments and talked about how his perspective on life has changed.
I love Earvin and, after forty years of friendship, he knows me pretty well. If he publicly announced that I had suddenly shrunk to 5’2”, even I would be tempted to believe him. But, in this case, he was very, very wrong. I don’t blame him for thinking that I might be bothered because he knows how competitive I used to be. And, if someone had broken my record within ten years of me setting it, he would probably be right. I might have hobbled out of retirement just to add a few more points on my record.
But that ain’t me today. I’m 75. The only time I ever think of the record is when someone brings it up. I retired from the NBA 34 years ago. For the past 20 years, I’ve occupied myself with social activism, my writing career, and my family—especially my three grandchildren. If I had a choice of having my scoring record remain intact for another hundred years or spend one afternoon with my grandchildren, I’d be on the floor in seconds stacking Legos and eating Uncrustables.
Honestly, the main takeaway from the article is that we’re lucky to have Cap around. He’s someone who really has a great understanding of the importance and gravity of the moment and accomplishment and is eager to praise the next generation, a trait that isn’t always commonplace amongst his peers.
Well done and thank you, Kareem.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.