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From Lew Alcindor to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Race, Religion, and Representation in Basketball, 1968–1975

  • ARAM GOUDSOUZIAN (a1)
Abstract

From 1968 to 1975, Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar traveled a turbulent personal path toward self-discovery. His journey had profound implications for the larger cultural landscape of race, sport, politics, and religion. As he became professional basketball's chief superstar, he was framed by the press as sullen and solitary, and he served as the villain in a media-driven storyline informed by popular prejudices. Yet for many African Americans and other progressive fans, he exemplified the ideals that made black power uplifting and affirmative, rather than threatening. His conversion to Islam and his name change further shaped new cultural and political territory for the black athlete. It highlighted a personal struggle within Abdul-Jabbar – he sought a kind of personal freedom, even as he revealed a tendency to subsume himself before strong authority figures. He nevertheless stood, in this period, as the nation's most prominent face of classical Islam. His religious conversion further distanced him from much of the American public, but over time he presented an effective, progressive narrative about the place of Islam in American life.

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1 Roger Kahn, “Lew Alcindor's Life as a Pro,” Sport, Feb. 1970, 59–65.

2 On black icons and black athletes in the twentieth-century United States see Randy Roberts, Papa Jack: Jack Johnson and the Era of White Hopes (New York: Free Press, 1983); William L. Van Deburg, Hoodlums: Black Villains and Social Bandits in American Life (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004); Lawrence W. Levine, Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977); Aram Goudsouzian, King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010).

3 Lew Alcindor with Jack Olsen, “My Story”, Sports Illustrated, 27 Oct. 1969, 90–95; Frank Deford, “Lewie Is a Minority of One,” Sports Illustrated, 5 Dec. 1966, 40–41; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Raymond Obstfeld, On the Shoulders of Giants: My Personal Journey through the Harlem Renaissance (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2007), 51–55; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Peter Knobler, Giant Steps (New York: Bantam Books, 1983), 45–47, 64–68.

4 Alcindor with Olsen, 95. On black politics in the urban North see Thomas Sugrue, Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North (New York: Random House, 2008); Jason Sokol, All Eyes Are upon Us: Race and Politics From Boston to Brooklyn (New York: Basic Books, 2014). On the black power movement see Peniel Joseph, Waiting 'til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (New York: Henry Holt, 2008); Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar, Black Power: Radical Politics and African-American Identity (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005).

5 Abdul-Jabbar and Knobler, 1–120; “The Character Builders,” Sports Illustrated, 10 Dec. 1962, 16–17; George Walsh, “The Wooing of a Seven-Foot Wonder,” Saturday Evening Post, 14 March 1964, 70–71; Will Bradbury, “Big Lew's Message to Scouts: Shh! I'm Busy,” Life, 29 Jan. 1965, 53–54; New York Times, 28 March 1965; Dave Klein, Rookie: The World of the NBA (New York: Cowles, 1971), 11–12; Phil Pepe, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1974), 8–9, 24–26; Alcindor with Olsen, 88–90.

6 Larry Fox, “Presenting Lew Alcindor,” Sport, Sept. 1966, 72–73; Pepe, 68–69; The Journal (Meriden, CT), 4 Aug. 1975; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 17 Aug. 1975; Rudy Langlais, “Exclusive: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,” Black Sports, Jan. 1976, 16; Arnold Hano, “The Heart of Lew Alcindor,” Sport, April 1967, 73–78.

7 Washington Post, 5 June 1967; Phil Pepe, “Lew Alcindor Sounds Off!”, Sport, Oct. 1967, 91; Bill Russell with Tex Maule, “I Am Not Worried about Ali,” Sports Illustrated, 19 June 1967, 18–21; Jim Brown with Steve Delsohn, Out of Bounds (New York: Zebra Books, 1989), 291–93; Thomas Hauser, Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times (New York: Touchstone Books, 1991), 177–79.

8 Johnathan Rodgers, “A Step to an Olympic Boycott,” Sports Illustrated, 4 Dec. 1967, 30–31; Harry Edwards, The Revolt of the Black Athlete (New York: The Free Press, 1970), 53. On Olympic boycott movements see also Harry Edwards, “Why Negroes Should Boycott Whitey's Olympics,” Saturday Evening Post, 9 March 1968, 6–10; “The Angry Black Athlete,” Newsweek, 15 July 1968, 56–60; Amy Bass, Not the Triumph but the Struggle: The 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), 80–99, 145–57; Douglass Hartmann, Race, Culture, and the Revolt of the Black Athlete (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003), 29–132.

9 Edwards, The Revolt of the Black Athlete, 53.

10 Rodgers, 31, original emphasis; Lew Alcindor with Jack Olsen, “A Year of Turmoil and Decision,” Sports Illustrated, 10 Nov. 1969, 35.

11 New York Amsterdam News, 30 Dec. 1967; Chicago Tribune, 25 Nov. 1967; Alcindor with Olsen, “A Year of Turmoil and Decision,” 35. See also “Should Negroes Boycott the Olympics?”, Ebony, March 1968, 110–16.

12 New York Times, 23 July 1968; “The Olympic Jolt: Hell No, Don't Go!”, Life, 15 March 1968, 27; Alcindor with Olsen, “A Year of Turmoil and Decision,” 37; Lew Alcindor as told to Dick Kaplan, “Why I Turned down a Million Dollars,” Sport, Nov. 1968, 27, 76. See also Joel Cohen, Big A: The Story of Lew Alcindor (New York: Scholastic Book Services, 1971), 58–59.

13 Bill Rhoden, “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,” Ebony, April 1975, 58; Florence Times Daily (AL), 31 July 1968; New York Times, 23 July 1968. On Alcindor's ideology and career through 1968 see also Smith, John Matthew, “‘It's Not Really My Country': Lew Alcindor and the Revolt of the Black Athlete,Journal of Sport History, 36, 2 (Summer 2009), 223–44.

14 “Playboy Interview: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,” Playboy, June 1986, 60; Lew Alcindor with Jack Olsen, “UCLA Was a Mistake,” Sports Illustrated, 3 Nov. 1969, 36–37. On Malcolm X see Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (New York: Ballantine Books, 1992; first published 1964); Manning Marable, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (New York: Penguin, 2011).

15 “Playboy Interview,” 62; “The Making of a Legend: Towering Lew Alcindor,” Newsweek, 27 Feb. 1967, 62; Langlais, 13. On the Nation of Islam see Ogbar, Black Power, 11–35.

16 Abdul-Jabbar and Knobler, Giant Steps, 165–70.

17 FBI File No. 105-HQ-35258 (Hamaas Abdul Khaalis); New York Times, 31 Jan. 1973; Washington Post, 2 Feb. 1973, 11 March 1977.

18 FBI File No. 105-HQ-35258 (Hamaas Abdul Khaalis); New York Times, 31 Jan. 1973.

19 On Khaalis's outlook and ideology see Khalifa Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, Look and See: The Key to Knowing and Understanding – Self-Identity, Self-Culture and Self-Heritage (Washington, DC: Hanafi Madh-hab Center, 1972). On the worldwide resurgence of Islam see Thomas Borstelmann, The 1970s: A New Global History of the 1970s, from Civil Rights to Economic Inequality (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), 263–70. On distinction between the Hanafite school of Sunni Islam and the Hanafi Muslims led by Khaalis see John Bowker, ed., The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 229.

20 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, “Leap of Faith,” in Steven Barboza, ed., American Jihad: Islam after Malcolm X (New York: Doubleday, 1994), 215; Abdul-Jabbar and Knobler, 171–81.

21 “California, Here I Come,” Time, 14 May 1965, 81; Alcindor with Olsen, “My Story,” 98; “Alcindor the Awesome,” Ebony, March 1967, 96–97; Alcindor with Olsen, “UCLA Was a Mistake,” 37–39; Deford, “Lewie Is a Minority of One,” 41; “Big Lew Measures His Lonely World,” Life, 17 Feb. 1967, 105–6; Pepe, “Lew Alcindor Sounds Off!”, 37, 91.

22 John Matthew Smith, The Sons of Westwood: John Wooden, UCLA, and the Dynasty That Changed College Basketball (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012), 91–105; Rex Lardner, “Can Basketball Survive Lew Alcindor?”, Saturday Evening Post, 14 Jan. 1967, 70–73; Frank Deford, “Two to Go for Lew,” Sports Illustrated, 27 March 1967, 14–17; Deford, “Terror in the Air,” Sports Illustrated, 3 April 1967, 16–21; Pepe, “Lew Alcindor Sounds Off!”, 36–37.

23 Alcindor with Olsen, “UCLA Was a Mistake,” 40, 45; “Playboy Interview,” 56; “Welcome to Year Two in the Reign of King Lew,” Sports Illustrated, 4 Dec. 1967, 34–35; Joe Jares, “A Dandy in the Dome,” Sports Illustrated, 29 Jan. 1968, 16–19; Jerry Izenberg, “A One-on-One Gunfight at Houston's Domed Corral,” Sport, Jan. 1980, 70–71; Smith, The Sons of Westwood, 119–35.

24 Abdul-Jabbar and Knobler, 182–90; Curry Kirkpatrick, “The Week He Finally Got Rid of the Yoke,” Sports Illustrated, 31 March 1969, 18–19; Smith, The Sons of Westwood, 139–43. UCLA lost only its last regular season game, to USC. See Joe Jares, “Beaten Once But Far from out,” Sports Illustrated, 17 March 1969, 28–30.

25 Alcindor with Olsen, “A Year of Turmoil and Decision,” 39, 43. On John Wooden see also Seth Davis, Wooden: A Coach's Life (New York: Times Books, 2014).

26 Ardie Ivie, “Fiendish in the Valley with Lew Alcindor,” Los Angeles Times West Magazine, 16 March 1969, 30–35.

27 Kirkpatrick, 18–19.

28 Alcindor with Olsen. “A Year of Turmoil and Decision,” 39, 43; Smith, The Sons of Westwood, 149–51; Kirkpatrick, 19.

29 On the larger striving for authenticity among student activists of the 1960s era see Doug Rossinow, The Politics of Authenticity: Liberalism, Christianity, and the New Left (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998).

30 Kahn, “Lew Alcindor's Life as a Pro,” 62; “Bleak House,” Newsweek, 14 April 1969, 98; Terry Pluto, Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association as Told by the Players, Coaches, and Movers and Shakers Who Made It Happen (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990) 191–93; New York Times, 3 April 1969; Bob Wolf, “Remember When,” Basketball Digest, May 1981, 86–91.

31 Milwaukee Sentinel, 15 April 1969; Cohen, Big A, 74; Tex Maule, “Lew Turns Small Change to Big Bucks,” Sports Illustrated, 9 March 1970, 20–25; Bob Wolf, “In NBA Rookie Race, It's Lew 145 Votes to One,” Sporting News, 28 March 1970, 39; Los Angeles Times, 20 Oct. 1969; Christian Science Monitor, 29 April 1974; Los Angeles Sentinel, 10 Oct. 1974; Bill Russell as told to Bill Libby, “What I Think of Lew Alcindor,” Sport, May 1971, 48.

32 “The Team It Took to Beat Big Lew,” Life, 1 May 1970, 58–59; Frank Deford, “The Knicks Drive In High,” Sports Illustrated, 27 April 1970, 12–17.

33 New York Times, 22 April 1970; Peter Carry, “Hey, Look Ma! Only One Hand,” Sports Illustrated, 10 May 1971, 26-31; Bob Wolf, “Bucks Crash the Big Dough as NBA Kings,” Sporting News, 15 April 1973, 44–46; “We've Got to Spread a Little Anarchy,” Sports Illustrated, 19 April 1971, 36; Phil Berger, “The Big O and Alcindor: Meeting the Challenge of Their Lives,” Sport, Dec. 1970, 30–31, 80–81. On Robertson see also Oscar Robertson, The Big O: My Life, My Times, My Game (New York: Rodale, 2003).

34 Peter Carry, “The Best Team – Ever,” Sports Illustrated, 15 Nov. 1971, 24–27; “Kareem Jabbar: Man of the Year,” Sport, Feb. 1972, 34–35.

35 Bob Wolf, “Jabbar No. 1 in NBA, Still Improving,” Sporting News, 15 April 1972, 37; Peter Carry, “Lew Is Not Enough,” Sports Illustrated, 8 Feb. 1971, 14; Chicago Tribune, 30 Dec. 1971; New York Times, 9 Jan. 1972; Roger W. Huehner, “The Education of Artis Gilmore as Given by Kareem Jabbar,” Sport, Jan. 1972, 60.

36 Milwaukee Journal, 9 June 1969, 12 June 1969, 1 Nov. 1969; Bob Wolf, “Lew Loses Cool in a Boo Barrage,” Sporting News, 6 Dec. 1969, 24.

37 Kahn, 63; Milwaukee Journal, 8 Feb. 1971.

38 Milwaukee Journal, 8 Feb. 1971, 11 Feb. 1971; Paul Wilkes, “Milwaukee Is Basketball's Best, But …,” Look, 4 April 1971, 68–70. Milwaukee had a relatively small black population, with a more recent migrant population than comparable cities. Its inner core was deteriorating as ethnic whites moved to the urban fringe and suburbs. See John Gurda, The Making of Milwaukee (Milwaukee: Milwaukee Historical Society, 1999), 319–76. Of course, however, Milwaukee did have a significant black community, and there is a scholarly literature on its economic status and political activity. See Joe William Trotter, Black Milwaukee: The Making of an Industrial Proletariat (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985); Patrick D. Jones, The Selma of the North: Civil Rights Insurgency in Milwaukee (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009); Andrew Witt, The Black Panthers in the Midwest: The Community Programs and Services of the Black Panther Party in Milwaukee, 1966–1977 (New York: Routledge, 2007); Jack Dougherty, More than One Struggle: The Evolution of Black School Reform in Milwaukee (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2004).

39 Wilkes, 70; Milwaukee Journal, 8 Feb. 1971.

40 Abdul-Jabbar and Knobler, Giant Steps, 197–98; Abdul-Jabbar, “Leap of Faith,” 217.

41 Abdul-Jabbar and Knobler, 227–31; Pam Grier with Andrea Coger, Foxy: My Life in Three Acts (New York: Springboard Books, 2010), 83–121. In their autobiographies, Abdul-Jabbar and Grier tell very different stories. According to Abdul-Jabbar, after he broke the news of his wedding to Habiba, Grier (given the pseudonym “Benavshad”) thanked him for converting her to Islam and married another man two weeks later. According to Grier, she never converted to Islam and never married. Abdul-Jabbar's version may be interpreted as one way to smooth over his internal turmoil in this era.

42 “Playboy Interview,” 65; Abdul-Jabbar and Knobler, 232–34; New York Times, 28 May 1971, 29 May 1971; Peter Carry, “No Member from the Wedding,” Sports Illustrated, 7 June 1971, 32.

43 Kahn, 65, original emphasis.

44 Garry Valk, “Letter from the Publisher,” Sports Illustrated, 6 Oct. 1969, 6; Alcindor with Olsen, “My Story,” 82–88; Alcindor with Olsen, “UCLA Was a Mistake,” 35–40, 45; Alcindor with Olsen, “A Year of Turmoil and Decision,” 35–48. Olsen's series from the summer of 1968 was republished as Jack Olsen, The Black Athlete: A Shameful Story (New York: Time-Life Books, 1968).

45 Frank Deford, “Buy a Basketball Franchise and Join the War,” Sports Illustrated, 2 Feb. 1970, 40–43; James A. Michener, Sports in America (New York: Random House, 1976), 370.

46 Pluto, Loose Balls, 285–88, 421–25; Gary Renberg, “Tossing Bombs into the Hoops,” Sports Illustrated, 22 Sept. 1969, 30–37; New York Times, 26 Aug. 1969, 20 Jan. 1970, 24 Jan. 1970, 12 April 1970, 17 April 1970–19 April 1970, 7 Aug. 1970, 21 Nov. 1970, 24 Nov. 1970, 25 March 1971, 30 Jan. 1972, 1 Feb. 1972, 23 March 1972, 15 June 1972.

47 “Kareem of the Crop,” Sports Illustrated, 16 Oct. 1972, 61; New York Times, 19 Aug. 1973, 25 July 1974; “Big Big Men Cash in on League War,” Ebony, Dec. 1969, 164–73; Dave Fisher, “Instant Millionaires from the Basketball War,” Life, 23 April 1971, 32–34; Lacy J. Banks, “Take the Money and Run!”, Ebony, Feb. 1972, 99–104; New York Times, 3 Oct. 1971; Los Angeles Times, 6 Feb. 1973, 10 June 1973. See also Michael Novak, The Joy of Sports: End Zones, Bases, Baskets, Balls, and the Consecration of the American Spirit (New York: Basic Books, 1976), 98–114; Todd Boyd, “The Day the Niggaz Took Over: Basketball, Commodity Culture, and Black Masculinity,” in Aaron Baker and Todd Boyd, eds., Out of Bounds: Sports, Media, and the Politics of Identity (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1997), 123–42. The Bucks president said that re-signing Abdul-Jabbar was vital to the team's efforts to build a new arena. Abdul-Jabbar had transformed a mediocre expansion franchise into a perennial championship contender.

48 David Halberstam, The Breaks of the Game (New York: Ballantine Books, 1981), 192–94, original emphasis; Milwaukee Journal, 6 Oct. 1972; The Independent (St. Petersburg, FL), 7 Oct. 1972; New York Times, 7 Oct, 1972; Milwaukee Sentinel, 1 Feb. 1973.

49 Harry Edwards, The Sociology of Sport (Homewood, IL: Dorsey Press, 1973), 103–30; Jack Scott, The Athletic Revolution (New York: Free Press, 1973); Glenn Dickey, The Jock Empire: Its Rise and Deserved Fall (Radnor, PA: Chilton Book Company, 1974); Leonard Shecter, The Jocks (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1969); Jerry Izenberg, How Many Miles to Camelot? The All-American Sport Myth (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972); Leila B. Gemme, The New Breed of Athlete: 12 Star Athletes Who Shook the American Sports Establishment (New York: Washington Square Press, 1975).

50 Lewis Cole, A Loose Game: The Sport and Business of Basketball (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1978), 94–122. On the larger political and cultural transformations by the early 1970s see Jefferson Cowie, Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class (New York: New Press, 2010), 1–209; Robert O. Self, All in the Family: The Realignment of American Democracy since the 1960s (New York: Hill and Wang, 2012), 248–338; Rick Perlstein, Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (New York: Scribner, 2008); Matthew Frye Jacobson, Roots Too: White Ethnic Revival in Post-Civil Rights America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), 187–202; Matthew D. Lassiter, The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 225–329; Kevin M. Kruse, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 234–66.

51 Michener, 171. Bill Bradley further discusses white fans' resentment of black basketball players, quoting an anonymous reporter who explains why New York Knicks fans lustfully booed Walt Frazier: “Take the ordinary, ethnic, white, working stiff … He saves his money, scrounges for a ticket to the Knicks, gets into his double knits that still don't hide his pot, and goes to the Garden. There he sees this Frazier, this black who can get women, white or black, whenever he wants, who is making $300,000 for playing – not working – and seemingly doing it easily. Then there he is, playing poorly; so the guy boos, thinking that the overpaid son-of-a-bitch deserves it.” Bill Bradley, Life on the Run (New York: Vintage Books, 1995; first published 1976), 204.

52 New York Times, 4 June 1971; Los Angeles Times, 17 Oct. 1971; Milwaukee Journal, 11 Dec. 1971.

53 New York Times, 4 June 1971; Palm Beach Post, 6 May 1971.

54 Milwaukee Journal, 23 June 1971; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 3 June 1971. On black entertainers and athletes who embarked on State Department trips in the civil rights era see Penny Von Eschen, Satchmo Blows up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004); Damion Thomas, Globetrotting: African American Athletes and Cold War Politics (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012).

55 Edward E. Curtis IV, Muslims in America: A Short History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 68–69; Kambiz Ghaneabassiri, A History of Islam in America: From the New World to the New World Order (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Michael A. Gomez, Black Crescent: The Experience and Legacy of African Muslims in the Americas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

56 Gomez, 331–70; “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,” Black Sports, Jan. 1976, 13; Abdul-Jabbar and Knobler, Giant Steps, 235.

57 Merv Harris, The Lonely Heroes: Professional Basketball's Great Centers (New York: Viking, 1975), 96–97.

58 Baltimore Afro-American, 8 April 1972; Abdul-Jabbar and Knobler, 256–57; Washington Post, 11 March 1977; New York Times, 10 March 1977.

59 Abdul-Jabbar, “Leap of Faith,” 214; Abdul-Jabbar and Knobler, 257–60; Washington Post, 19 Jan. 1973.

60 New York Times, 23 Jan. 1973, 25 Jan. 1973, 23 Feb. 1973, 23 Feb. 1974; Washington Post, 19 Jan. 1973, 24 Jan. 1974, 23 Feb. 1974, 28 Feb. 1974, 1 March 1974; John W. King, The Breeding of Contempt: Account of the Largest Mass Murder in Washington, D. C. History (Bloomington, IN: XLibris, 2002), 138–41. The murders were preceded by articles in Muhammad Speaks that blasted Khaalis. The Hanafi house had received threatening phone calls, and Khaalis and his son were beaten outside a Hanafi-owned jewelry store.

61 New York Times, 19 Jan. 1973; Milwaukee Journal, 3 Feb. 1973, 5 Feb. 1973; Washington Post, 20 Jan. 1973, 23 Jan. 1973.

62 Sean Patrick Griffin, Philadelphia's ‘Black Mafia’: A Social and Political History (New York: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003), 17–20, 35–40; King, The Breeding of Contempt, 62–65; Washington Post, 2 March 1974.

63 New York Times, 25 Jan. 1973, 25 Jan. 1973; Peter Carry, “Center in a Storm,” Sports Illustrated, 19 Feb. 1973, 19.

64 New York Times, 14 May 1973; Abdul-Jabbar and Knobler, 263–66.

65 Bill Rhoden, “Athletes Search for Inner Peace through Religions and Mind Sciences,” Ebony, July 1975, 98–99; Nelson George, Elevating the Game: Black Men and Basketball (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), 162–64; “The 19th Hole,” Sports Illustrated, 5 March 1973, 86. At times Hazzard was known as Mahdi Abdul-Rahman and Scott as Shaeed Abdul-Aleem. Jamaal Wilkes was originally Keith Wilkes, but his name change was more permanent. Other players who converted to Islam included Wally Jones (Wali Jones), Don Smith (Zaid Abdul-Aziz), and Warren Armstrong (Warren Jabali).

66 For a comprehensive biography of Chamberlain see Robert Cherry, Wilt: Larger than Life (Chicago: Triumph Books, 2004). On his 100-point game and cultural impact see Gary M. Pomerantz, Wilt, 1962: The Night of 100 Points and the Dawn of a New Era (New York: Crown, 2005).

67 Goudsouzian, Aram, “‘My Impact Will Be Everlasting’: Wilt Chamberlain in History and Memory,Journal of Sport History, 32, 2 (Summer 2005), 235–48; John Papanek, “A Different Drummer,” Sports Illustrated, 31 March 1980, 66. On rivalry with Russell see John Taylor, The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Golden Age of Basketball (New York: Random House, 2005).

68 “The Making of a Legend: Towering Lew Alcindor,” Newsweek, 27 Feb. 1967, 62; Abdul-Jabbar and Knobler, 76–84; Garth Williams, “The Truth behind the Chamberlain–Jabbar Feud,” uncited article, Wilt Chamberlain clippings file, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Springfield, MA; New York Times, 7 Feb. 1981.

69 Jimmy Breslin, “Can Basketball Survive Chamberlain?”, Saturday Evening Post, 1 December 1956, 33, 104–8; Lardner, “Can Basketball Survive Lew Alcindor?”, 70–73.

70 Los Angeles Times, 22 July 1970, 3 April 1971, 24 April 1971, 9 June 1971, 13 March 1972, 15 March 1972, 20 Oct. 1973; “A Womb with a View,” Newsweek, 13 March 1972, 55; Louie Robinson, “The High Price of Being Wilt Chamberlain,” Ebony, Jan. 1974, 94–101; Wilt Chamberlain with Roy Blount Jr., “My Impact Will Be Everlasting,” Sports Illustrated, 7 Oct. 1974, 36–47; Wilt Chamberlain and David Shaw, Wilt: Just like Any Other 7-Foot Millionaire Who Lives Next Door (New York: MacMillan, 1973); New York Times, 19 Dec. 1973.

71 Russell, “What I Think of Lew Alcindor,” 90.

72 Los Angeles Times, 10 April 1971, 15 April 1971, 17 April 1971; New York Times, 19 April 1971; Chicago Tribune, 9 April 1971, 2 May 1971.

73 Charley Rosen, The Pivotal Season: How the 1971–72 Los Angeles Lakers Changed the NBA (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2005); “The Lakers Roll On,” Time, 10 Jan. 1972, 57–58; “NBA West,” Sporting News, 29 Jan. 1972, 10; Peter Carry, “Bombs Away Out West,” Sports Illustrated, 24 April 1972, 14–17; Peter Carry, “As West Goes – So Goes the West,” Sports Illustrated, 31 April 1972, 28, 33; Los Angeles Times, 7 April 1972, 15 April 1972, 19 April 1972, 20 April 1972, 23 April 1972.

74 New York Times, 29 April 1972. After his retirement, Chamberlain periodically took potshots at Abdul-Jabbar, leading a miffed Abdul-Jabbar to pen “An Open Letter to Wilt Chumperlame” that characterized his old nemesis as “a whining crybaby and quitter.” See Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Mignon McCarthy, Kareem (New York: Warner Books, 1990), 285–90.

75 Los Angeles Times, 18 May 1973. Bill Bradley sees a similar cultural dynamic in the 1973 playoffs: “Wilt, in that series, at last became a popular big-man. He defeated the proud, independent Muslim, who for a brief moment due to his size, outspokenness, and misunderstood religion became the designated villain that Chamberlain's arrogance and size had always made him in the public mind. Wilt had finally become an American hero.” Bradley, Life on the Run, 157.

76 Peter Carry, “Trying Hardest but Still Second,” Sports Illustrated, 12 Jan. 1974, 20; New York Times, 30 March 1973, 1 April 1973, 21 March 1974, 8 April 1974, 23 April 1974; Peter Carry, “Boston's Perpetual Motion Machine,” Sports Illustrated, 2 April 1973, 35–45. On tropes of whiteness and the blue-collar work ethic in professional basketball see Jeffrey Lane, Under the Boards: The Cultural Revolution in Basketball (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007), 113–45; Smith, John Matthew, “‘Gifts That God Didn't Give’: White Hopes, Basketball, and the Legend of Larry Bird,Massachusetts Historical Review, 13 (2011), 130 .

77 Peter Carry, “They're Centers of Attention,” Sports Illustrated, 13 May 1974, 34; Carry, “A Matter of Celtic Pride,” Sports Illustrated, 20 May 1974, 22–24; “The Red and the Black,” Newsweek, 6 May 1974, 48.

78 Rudy Langlais, “Unlikely Loser: A Joyless Season for Abdul-Jabbar,” Black Sports, April 1975, 18–21, 29; Abdul-Jabbar and Knobler, Giant Steps, 270–71; New York Times, 23 Jan. 1975. On Walton at UCLA see Smith, The Sons of Westwood, 177–250. On Abdul-Jabbar and Walton in historical perspective see Bethlehem Shoals, “Left of Center: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton,” in FreeDarko (Collective), FreeDarko Presents: The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History (New York: Bloomsbury, 2010), 91–95.

79 Pat Putnam, “That's No Way to Talk to Teacher,” Sports Illustrated, 14 Oct. 1974, 30–32.

80 Roger Kahn, “Sports,” Esquire, March 1975, 20, 24; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 1 April 1975; Milwaukee Journal, 29 Oct. 1975; Peter Gent, “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Is Still Growing,” Sport, Feb. 1974, 52.

81 Milwaukee Journal, 15 March 1975; “Kareem's New Career,” Newsweek, 30 June 1975, 43–44; Los Angeles Times, 25 Dec. 1987.

82 Michael K. Herbert, “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Player of the Year,” Basketball Digest, June 1977, 16–21; Bert Rosenthal, “Why the Pros Say ‘No One Can Stop Kareem,’” Basketball Digest, Feb. 1978, 22–27; Richard Levin, “Kareem's Skyhook: The Greatest Shot Ever,” Basketball Digest, Dec. 1979, 31–33; “Notes, Quotes & Comments,” Basketball Digest, June 1980, 14; Barry Farrell, “Performer of the Year,” Sport, Feb. 1978, 16.

83 Los Angeles Times, 1 May 1977, 6 Oct. 1981; Ted Green, “Has King Jabbar Hung 'Em up Mentally?”, Sporting News, 25 March 1978, 3; Richard Levin, “The NBA's 10 Most Overrated Players,” Basketball Digest, Feb. 1980, 28–29; John Papanek, “The Tallest Question Mark in L. A.,” Sports Illustrated, 30 Oct. 1978, 83.

84 Los Angeles Times, 19–22 Oct. 1977; New York Times, 20 Oct. 1977.

85 Los Angeles Times, 21 Oct. 1977, 12 Nov. 1977; 16 Jan. 1978; Papanek, “A Different Drummer,” 65; Papanek, “The Tallest Question Mark in L. A.,” 83; John Feinstein, The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever (Boston: Back Bay Books, 2002), 44–50.

86 New York Times, 11 March 1977; Washington Post, 11–13 March 1977.

87 Ghaneabassiri, A History of Islam in America, 284–89; Washington Post, 10 March 1977, 11 March 1977. On instances of terrorism in the United States in the 1970s see Rick Perlstein, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014), 193, 203, 208–10, 224–25, 415, 507–8, 567.

88 Washington Post, 10–13 March 1977; New York Times, 4 May 1977, 8 July 1977, 19 July 1977, 24 July 1977.

89 Abdul-Jabbar and Knobler, Giant Steps, 280; Papanek, “A Different Drummer,” 57; Farrell, “Performer of the Year,” 26–27.

90 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Best Man in His Game,” Sepia, March 1978, 49; New York Times, 16 Jan. 1978.

91 Craig W. Read, “The Resurrection of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,” Sepia, May 1980, 30–36; Norman O. Unger, “Private Life of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,” Jet, 10 May 1982, 54–58; Unger, “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,” Ebony, May 1986, 164–70; Dan Barreiro, “The New Kareem Is Still at the Top,” Basketball Digest, June–July 1986, 29–35; Abdul-Jabbar with McCarthy, Kareem, 83–85; Los Angeles Daily News, 18 Dec. 1985, 23 April 1989.

92 Alexander Wolff, “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Comfortable as Ever as a Public Intellectual,” Sports Illustrated, 14 July 2015; Jay Caspian Kang, “What the World Got Wrong about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,” New York Times Magazine, 17 September 2015.

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Journal of American Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-8758
  • EISSN: 1469-5154
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-american-studies
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