NBA basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar donated 900 pairs of safety goggles to UCLA Health Tuesday to protect health care professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Abdul-Jabbar, who played for legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden on three consecutive national championship Bruin teams from 1966-69, said he wants health care workers to have the same sense of safety that he had wearing eye protection during his 20-year career with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Abdul-Jabbar, 72, wore a pair of the goggles in a video posted on Twitter along with UCLA Health's announcement of his donation.
"I want to thank the doctors and nurses at UCLA for all that they are doing. You guys are awesome, risking your lives to help the public," he said. "I would like to do my part, so I am going to use my influence and have my team source quality medical products, such as protective eyewear goggles like these. You guys should have all the best equipment while you're on the front lines. Thank you for all you do."
Abdul-Jabbar also tweeted: "I'm a Bruin through and through and I'm glad to lend any help that I can to the medical community who is doing everything they can to save lives ― we appreciate you & we are with you !!!"
Dr. Eric Esrailian, who has been one of UCLA Health's leaders in the effort to raise funds for supplies, equipment and research during the COVID-19 pandemic, accepted the donation from Abdul-Jabbar.
Esrailian, chief of the Vatche & Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases, director of the Melvin & Bren Simon Digestive Diseases Center and Lincy Foundation Chair in Clinical Gastroenterology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has also created two COVID-19 funds: one to help patients and a second to help first responders.
"On behalf of UCLA Health, I am honored and grateful to accept the generous donation of protective goggles from our friend, the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar," Esrailian said. "We are incredibly grateful for the recent outpouring of financial support and donations of supplies during this unprecedented time."
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Abdul-Jabbar teamed up with his longtime manager Deborah Morales to secure medical supplies for hospitals in Southern California. On Monday, he donated 900 pairs of safety goggles to Scripps Health in San Diego. The nonprofit health care delivery system operates five hospitals and 28 outpatient centers in San Diego County.