‘Becoming Kareem’ coming to a city near you

Associated Press | 3/1/2018, 1:08 a.m.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been a best-selling author, civil rights activist, actor, historian and one of the greatest basketball players who ...
Author, activist and former NBA basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar poses at the Newport Beach, Calif., offices of the Skyhook Foundation, the nonprofit he started several years ago to provide educational opportunities for elementary students. Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

He has written more than a dozen books, ranging from children’s adventure novels to histories of prominent African-Americans to crime novels featuring the adventures of none other than Mycroft Holmes, older brother of Sherlock.

“I enjoyed Sherlock Holmes from when I was a kid,” he recalls, adding with a robust laugh that, until high school, he actually believed the master detective was a real person. Learning that Sherlock Holmes was Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation, he concluded the author gave short shrift to Mycroft and set out to fix that a few years ago. His second Holmes book came out last year, and he’s working on another.

“That and this tour will hopefully keep me pretty busy,” he said as he sat in a chair in his spacious office.

It’s an office filled with memorabilia commemorating not only his basketball career but his African-American roots and his work as a civil rights advocate. Sitting near NAACP Image Awards are dozens of basketballs, many autographed by members of the Showtime-era Los Angeles Lakers teams he helped lead to five championships in the 1980s. On the walls are posters of him launching his signature skyhook shot over the likes of Charles Barkley and guarding Bill Walton.

The sounds of jazz, the beloved soundtrack of Mr. Abdul-Jabbar’s life, play softly through the office until he silences them to talk. (His father, Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, whose name he shared before changing his in his early 20s upon his conversion to Islam, was not only a New York City police officer but a talented jazz musician.)

If not as shy as he once was, Mr. Abdul-Jabbar is still somewhat guarded in conversation, although he can be playfully funny as well.

Yes, he confirms with a grin, it’s true that after President Trump sent him a name-calling note for criticizing him, he crumpled it into a ball and skyhooked it into a wastebasket.

Although Mr. Adul-Jabbar suffered from leukemia that’s now in remission and underwent quadruple bypass surgery three years ago, he does not look much different than he did during his playing days, appearing trim and athletic in Tommy Hilfiger jeans and an open-necked shirt.

“Well, you know, seeing how there is no alternative, I’ll take it,” he says of turning 70 last year. “But I don’t know about that ‘life begins at 40’ stuff. What happened at 40 is I started getting old.

“There is something wrong with that scenario,” he adds, laughing again.