Kareem Abdul-Jabbar reflects on strained relationship with LeBron James: NPR
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The day after seeing his all-time NBA record finally fall to LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar reflected on the complicated relationship between the two athletes.
“LeBron said we don’t have a relationship,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote in an online letter. “He’s right – and for that I blame myself.”
Abdul-Jabbar’s letter came hours after James topped Abdul-Jabbar’s career by 38,387 points on Tuesday night in front of the home crowd of the LA Lakers. The NBA paused the game so that Abdul-Jabbar, himself a Lakers legend, could appear on the court alongside James.
Abdul-Jabbar ceremonially handed the basketball to James, and the two embraced before James addressed the crowd.
“To see my family and my friends, the people that have been around me since I started this journey to the NBA, it’s really, really emotional there,” James said.
Abdul-Jabbar said he gave up his sports career
In the letter, Abdul-Jabbar reflected on comments from other athletes, including Magic Johnson and James, in the months leading up to the new record. Abdul-Jabbar said people were wrong to assume he wouldn’t be happy for James.
“It’s like I won a billion dollars in a lottery and 39 years later someone won two billion dollars,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote. “How would I feel? I’m grateful to have won and happy that the next person has also won. Their victory does not affect my victory in any way.”
Although Abdul-Jabbar admitted he might feel different if someone broke his record even a decade after him, he said he doesn’t feel that way now. Having retired from the NBA 34 years ago, Abdul-Jabbar said he now focuses more on his family and his social activism.
“If I had the choice of keeping my scoring record intact for another hundred years or spending an afternoon with my grandkids, I’d be down in seconds stacking Legos and eating Encrustables,” he said. he wrote.
Abdul-Jabbar blames himself for strained relationship
Abdul-Jabbar corroborated James’ comments earlier that the two athletes did not have a relationship. The retired athlete blamed his introverted personality and the big age difference between the two – James is 38, Abdul-Jabbar is 75.
“This disconnect is on me,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “I knew the pressures he was under and maybe I could have helped ease them a bit.”
Abdul-Jabbar also pointed to comments he had previously made about James. This includes criticizing James for comments he made about the pandemic. Abdul-Jabbar also pointed out that he had written articles “praising LeBron” before, and continues to do so today.
“My good opinion of LeBron has grown in the two years since I wrote this,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “His passion for social justice and betterment of his community has only increased – and his athleticism has reached a whole new level of performance.”