Soon enough, the world will understand and experience the life of an iconic 7-foot 2-inch intellectual that lived through one of the most socially transformative half-centuries in history.
Los Angeles Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has signed on to do a documentary involving HBO Sports, Mandalay Sports Media and Iconomy Multi-Media and Entertainment focused on the legend’s social and cultural involvement off the court and landmark achievements on it.
“Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a legendary figure and an American sports icon,” Ken Hershman, president of HBO Sports, said in a press release announcing the film. “While he has lived so much of his life in the media spotlight, his extraordinary story has never been explored in depth, and we are grateful to Kareem and his team for allowing us to bring this story to life.”
Despite living in Los Angeles and appearing in several iconic films, including "Airplane!" (1980) and "Game of Death" (1987), Abdul-Jabbar was widely considered an isolated personality that was often described as unfriendly with the media.
The documentary, which is scheduled to debut in early 2015, sets out to explain the oft misunderstood giant.
“By his own admission, Abdul-Jabbar has had a complicated and occasionally hostile relationship with the media,” said Mike Tollin, executive producer of the documentary and co-chairman of Mandalay Sports Media. “This is a unique opportunity to tell all sides of his story.”
From growing up in New York City to maturing in Los Angeles, Abdul-Jabbar, now 67 years old, lived through great social change throughout his public life. Born Lew Alcindor, Abdul-Jabbar converted to Islam in 1968 and was a prominent and respected face whenever mainstream social issues crossed over into the realm of sports or vice versa.
Regardless of how touchy an issue appeared, Abdul-Jabbar never shied away from sharing his thoughts when he saw fit.
“After 9/11, all of a sudden, you have this suspicious spotlight on you just because you’re Muslim,” Abdul-Jabbar once offered insights into the transformation of American society following the date that will live in infamy. “It was a radical change and it really bothered me.”
After getting a statue outside Staples Center in 2012, a six-time NBA champion and Most Valuable Player, became a common face in the crowd at Staples Center and in the greater community as a whole.
Most recently, he joined current and former NBA players at Los Angeles City Hall to stand in support of the NBA Players’ Union and react to the NBA’s lifetime ban on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
Truthfully, no one was surprised to see the sports and social icon present to offer his thoughts and experiences to the gathering.
Always considered one of the more thoughtful and educated players to ever grace the NBA, Abdul-Jabbar recently sharpened his pen and took on a position as a weekly columnist for the L.A. Register, a newly launched newspaper related to the longstanding Orange County Register.
Abdul-Jabbar has also recently penned multiple pieces for Time Magazine discussing race and society in response to the fallout deriving from Sterling’s racially insensitive comments.
A well-accomplished writer, along with columns and articles, Abdul-Jabbar has co-authored numerous books that feature the recurring theme of telling untold stories of black Americans that helped shape American history.
Fitting, Abdul-Jabbar’s upcoming documentary should be just that: a historical document that reveals an important and untold story that is as much a part of black history as it is a part of American history.