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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's recommended reading: The Autobiography of Malcolm X

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Profile of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Biography of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Interview with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Photo Gallery

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Interview (page: 6 / 7)

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  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

This might be an unfair question, but what do you consider your greatest achievement so far?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Interview Photo
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: My greatest achievement, I think, has been being a successful parent, sending my kids to school. They are all college grads. They understand who they are, where they are, and have made a good statement with their lives. I think that has been the best thing that I have done.

When you were growing up, what influenced you? What were the important things in your life, whether they were individuals or books or events or music?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: I think I certainly enjoyed seeing the Brooklyn Dodgers win the World Series in 1955. That was a very special moment. I will never forget that. Playing on the city championship team for three years in a row in high school, that was very special for me, something I enjoyed. Doing well at UCLA both as a student and as an athlete, that was very important to me. Doing well as a professional basketball player, being consistent, and being able to make the All Star team and be the Most Valuable Player in the league, that is something I am proud of as a personal achievement.

Was there a book you read as a young man that enlightened you in some way, that inspired you or challenged you?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: I think The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Alex Haley, really inspired me to know more and to emulate the positive growth that Malcolm X went through. He started out on a very negative path. He was a thief and someone involved in the underworld, and he grew out of that. His exposure to the teachings of the Nation of Islam made him want to change, and then when he saw that the Nation of Islam had some problems, he put that behind him, and through Islam -- orthodox Islam -- he found a better path, and he never stopped trying to improve himself and increase his knowledge. I think that is a great example for anyone.

If a young person came to you for advice, what would that advice be? What would you say to them?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: I think the statement that "knowledge is power" is a very succinct way of getting the message across that you have to know what is right, you have to pursue what is right, and the only way that you can know and do these things is to acquire knowledge. Flailing around in the dark does not help anyone.

As you look ahead into the 21st century, what do you see as the greatest challenges to America as a country?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: I think America has the challenge ahead of it of making the promise of the Constitution real for everyone. Everyone needs to have the opportunity to succeed. That's a very difficult thing to make happen. A lot of societies have tried that and failed. I think we have to continually reassess and reinvent how we approach the promise of the American Dream.

[ Key to Success ] The American Dream

If there is one problem you could solve, what would it be?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Interview Photo
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: If there was one problem I could solve, I would want to deal with the issue of equality, equality of opportunity. The only way that I see that we can make that a reality is to educate everyone, to make the educational system work for all segments of society, the rich and the poor. That has not happened, and we have the problems that we have based mainly on the lack of opportunity for people who don't get the education that they need to contribute to society.

Does an athlete as prominent as yourself have a special responsibility? Are you role models?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: I think all prominent people, no matter what field they are in, have a responsibility to show others how to get things done. The whole idea of sharing your knowledge and allowing other people to see how to succeed, I think that is very important. I think that works for everyone. It is my hope that that becomes the norm for America.

How do you personally measure achievement? How do you measure success?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: I measure success basically by seeing how far a person can go in whatever field that they choose. If you choose to write, can you get something published that people will want to read? I think that is a pretty straightforward example of someone attempting and succeeding at an effort. For other people, having the ability to go out and support themselves, if they can do that, and get to the point where they can raise and support a family, I think that is another great achievement. It doesn't always have to be spectacular stuff, it just has to be living a normal life.

What gave you a greater sense of achievement or joy, winning an NBA championship, beating the Celtics, whatever you did as an athlete, or seeing one of your books in print?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: I think seeing one of my books in print has given me as much joy and sense of achievement as winning an NBA championship. Although I don't get the notoriety from my books that I have gotten as an athlete, it still gives me great joy to know that I can contribute to American life something significant. Well, it is significant to me, and possibly the people who pick up my books and read them get some fulfillment out of it. I think that to me is very meaningful and it gives me a lot of joy.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

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This page last revised on Sep 22, 2010 14:03 EDT
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