A statue of former Los Angeles Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, was unveiled on Friday outside the Staples Center.
Abdul-Jabbar’s teammates with the 1980s “Showtime” Lakers including teammates Earvin “Magic” Johnson, James Worthy, the team’s coach, Pat Riley, former Laker player, coach and general manager Jerry West and team executive Jeanie Buss were among those joining Abdul-Jabbar at the ceremony.
The 1,500-pound, nearly 16-foot bronze statue was created by sculptors and artists Julie Rotblatt Amrany and Omri Amrany, who also created the statues of Johnson, West and the late Lakers announcer Chick Hearn which are in Staples Center's Star Plaza.
“I just think it is very accurate,” said Adbul-Jabbar, on the statue. “It shows me in mid-career and doing what I did best.”
The statue is the sixth in the plaza. The others are of hockey’s all-time leading scorer Wayne Gretzky and former boxing champion Oscar De La Hoya.
“This is really special to me because this is about home, L.A. is my home,” said Abdul-Jabbar. “The L.A. fans are my friends and my supporters. So, to have this happen here and in this way means a lot.”
Former teammate Johnson added that Kareem was the real leader on the “Showtime” Laker teams of the ‘80s.
“Thank you for allowing us and taking us on a ride with you -- nine times to the finals in 12 years, five championships. It was all because of your great leadership,” Johnson said.
Abdul-Jabbar was acquired by the Lakers in a 1975 trade with the Milwaukee Bucks, who he played with for the first six seasons of his NBA career, being selected as the league’s MVP three times and leading the team to its only championship in 1971.
Abdul-Jabbar played with the Lakers through 1989, was selected as MVP three more times and helped the team win five championships.
His 38,387 points are the most in league history. He is third in rebounds and third in blocked shots, a statistic not kept his first four seasons in the league.
Abdul-Jabbar, then Lew Alcindor, led UCLA to NCAA championships from 1967-69 and is the only player to be named as the MVP of the NCAA tournament for three consecutive years.
Since retiring as a player in 1989, Abdul-Jabbar has been an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Clippers and Seattle SuperSonics, a special assistant coach with the Lakers, and has authored seven best-selling books intended to popularize the contributions of blacks to American culture and history.
Abdul-Jabbar was named a cultural ambassador for the United States in January. He is the founder of the Skyhook Foundation, named for his signature shot, which seeks to raise the academic aspirations of students by connecting them with mentors and seeking to excite them about careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.