- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, says he’s not really involved with basketball anymore. The 64-year-old played for 20 seasons and was a six-time champion, once with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971, and five times with the Los Angeles Lakers between 1980 and 1988.

But just as Abdul-Jabbar knows his place in the annals of African American history, there are those whose names have been forgotten and whose accomplishments remain unknown. That is something Abdul-Jabbar is trying to change.

“When I was a kid, history books dealt with black Americans in terms of slavery and civil rights. That was it,” said Adbul-Jabbar, who made a recent visit to D.C. to promote his work in the field of education. “I had no idea what the real impact of black Americans had on American life. I had to find some way of dealing with issues that will help kids learn things that will help them in their lives.”

Abdul-Jabbar has teamed up with Follett Publishers, a company which produces teaching materials for schools worldwide. His new book, “On the Shoulders of Giants,” deals with one of his passions, the Harlem Renaissance.

“The musicians, writers, politicians, athletes, that were part of the Harlem Renaissance had such a profound impact on American life,” Abdul-Jabbar said.

The teaching materials Abdul-Jabbar has developed include lesson plans for teachers as well as students, with a focus on the junior high school age group.

“America has been seen as a place where people of all different cultures and ethnicities have been successful. Young people need to get an idea that they belong,” Abdul-Jabbar said.

Abdul-Jabbar was recently awarded the Lincoln Medal, presented to him by Attorney General Eric Holder, and is currently working on a children’s book, “What Color Is My World,” which focusses on African American inventors.

Diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in 2008, Abdul-Jabbar is undergoing regular treatments and says that his cancer is now minimal. He also took a moment to offer a few thoughts on the recently-resolved NBA lockout and the state of the league as he views it.

“In labor disputes, both sides think they’re absolutely correct. I don’t think the player had as much leverage as they thought they had,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “The bottom line is that the player lost about six percent. I think they can live with that because in these economic times, being able to get paid like they get paid and have a ten-year deal in place, I think they came out pretty well.

“I don’t think they lost any fans because it didn’t become something that cost them the season. If they had lost the ability to play this season, I think they would have cut into their popularity and I think people would have been trying to understand it.”

But he also expressed an understanding for players who want to play in certain markets, even if it means that the smaller markets may suffer.

“Starting when you’re a kid, if you are into professional basketball, there’s a team that you might want to play for. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just human nature,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “I grew up in New York City, in Manhattan, and I wanted to play for the Knicks. It was a lifetime dream for me and it never happened.”

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