This afternoon we went to Pauley to hear Tyus Edney interview Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, prior to Big Lew's autographing his new book. The book, Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court, is a must for you to buy. Kareem said it's not a basketball book, it's a book about how you act when you really care for someone else.
Some highlights from the interview:
1. Kareem was born the day after Jackie Robinson broke MLB's color line.
2. He started off playing baseball.
3. In grade school, he began developing his George Mikan hook shot.
4. During high school, he met Dr. Martin Luther King.
5. He went on recruiting visits to Holy Cross, St. Johns, and Michigan but choose UCLA because he liked our style of play and he liked Coach.
6. When Coach and his assistant Jerry Norman visited Lew at home in New York, Coach met with his parents with Lew sent to another room. Kareem said his parents were impressed with Coach and that Coach was impressed with them.
7. He reminded us that his UCLA Freshman Team (they couldn't play varsity back then) beat the 2-time defending national championship UCLA Varsity Team by 15 points. The frosh, called Brubabes, were Alcindor, Lucius Allen, Lynn Shackelford, Kenny Heitz, and
Hank Babcock Kent Taylor. ( Babcock Taylor is the answer to the trivia question, which college player played with Alcindor, beat Alcindor, and lost to Alcindor? because he was a fellow Brubabe, then transferred to Houston who edged us when Lew had to play with an injured eye, then played in the Bruins' destruction of Houston in the Final Four.) Kareem repeated the famous line of 1965: "UCLA is number one in the country but number two on campus."
8. He learned much from Coach and believes Coach learned things from his relationship with Kareem.
9. He didn't learn until the 1990s that Coach was one of the many who voted to abolish the dunk after Lew's success with it.
10. This is the 12th book Kareem has written -- there are Trogans who have never read that many.
11. He received our nation's highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, from President Obama -- following in the footsteps of Coach, who received it from President G. W. Bush.
Not mentioned in the interview, but well worth remembering as a testament to this historic friendship, when Coach was in the hospital dying, Kareem flew in from Europe to reach Coach in time to say their farewells.
While shaking Kareem's hand today, I told him, "It's an honor." And it always will be.