The Los Angeles Lakers honored one of the greatest players to ever step on a basketball court on Friday night. The franchise unveiled a statue of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar outside of Staples Center in Los Angeles. His No. 33 had already been retired, and now his patented skyhook has been captured in bronze alongside statues of Lakers greats Magic Johnson, Jerry West and Chick Hearn.
The 65-year-old Abdul-Jabbar was a 19-time All-Star, six-time NBA MVP and is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer (38,387 points). He came to the Lakers via trade from the Milwaukee Bucks 1975 and spent the rest of his career in Los Angeles, retiring in 1989 with six championship rings, five earned in purple and gold.
The ceremony took place before the Lakers beat the Phoenix Suns 114-102.
Though his relationship with the Lakers has appeared a bit strained at times over the past few years, he was visibly humbled by the honor. The unveiling ceremony was attended by many NBA greats, and celebrities. Johnson was in attendance, as were West, Pat Riley, Elgin Baylor, Julius Erving, Bill Walton, Jamaal Wilkes, Kurt Rambis, A.C. Green, James Worthy and Jack Nicholson.
Abdul-Jabbar said the following in his speech:
“Having lived my life and had the experiences I’ve had, I can understand now what a man like Lou Gehrig means when he considers himself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”
Hundreds of fans were gathered when Abdul-Jabbar pulled a cord to drop the curtain covering it.
Riley and Johnson both gave speeches praising the 7’2″ center’s leadership and how he was the rock that the Showtime Lakers were built upon.
While Abdul-Jabbar is most remembered for his time with the Lakers and as one of the most dominant college players of all-time at UCLA, he also had success elsewhere. The Milwaukee Bucks made him the top pick in the 1969 NBA Draft, and he teamed with Oscar Robertson to bring that franchise an NBA championship in 1971.
But we will always remember him for his incredible years with the Lakers. And now he’ll forever be on display outside the Staples Center in that iconic uniform.