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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Family Life

Soon after the Bucks won the NBA championship in 1971, Jabbar donned the white robes of a Muslim groom for his wedding to Janice Brown. In recognition of her new life with Jabbar, Brown adopted the Muslim name Habiba. Jabbar, who was known professionally as Lew Alcindor during his first two seasons with the Bucks, changed his name legally to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at that time.

The ceremony, which took place in Washington, D.C, was held at dawn, according to Muslim custom. When mosque officials refused to allow Jabbar's parents to wit ness

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, right

the ceremony because of their Catholic faith they were understandably offended. They had traveled all the way from New York to see their only child get married, and the incident caused a serious rift between the Alcindors and their son. Jabbar felt badly; he had not been told until after the ceremony that his parents were barred from entering the mosque. The rift between him and his parents was slow to heal, and nearly ten years passed before he made amends with his family. After that time Jabbar always made sure to point to the camera and say, "Hi to Moms and Pops in New York," whenever he appeared on national television. His marriage to Habiba, however, did not fare as well, and the couple was divorced in 1977.

Jabbar spent the summer of 1972 at Harvard studying the Arabic language, and that year Habiba gave birth to the couple's first child, a daughter also named Habiba. Jabbar, who was raised as an only child, had difficulty conforming his life to accommodate a significant other person and a child. The union between Jabbar and his wife had weakened early in the marriage. He and Habiba separated permanently in December of 1973.

Awards and Accomplishments

1962-66 Sets a record for most points (2,067) and most rebounds (2,002) by a high school player in New York City
1966 Receives a New York State Regents' scholarship; accepts a scholarship to UCLA
1967-69 Named to first team, All-America; named most outstanding player, National College Athletic Association tournament
1967, 1969 Named college player of the year by Sporting News, United Press International, Associated Press, and U.S. Basketball Writers Association; named national player of the year
1969 Received Naismith Award; graduated as the leading scorer in the history of University of California at Los Angeles
1970 Named National Basketball Association Rookie of the Year
1970-77, 1979-89 Played in National Basketball Association All-Star Games
1971-72 Led National Basketball Association in scoring
1971-72, 1974, 1976-77, 1980 Named league's most valuable player
1971, 1985 Named most valuable player of National Basketball Association playoffs
1971-77, 1980-81, 1984, 1986, Named to All-NBA First Team
1974-75, 1979-81 Named to All-Defensive First Team
1975-76, 1979-80 Led National Basketball Association in blocked shots
1976 Led National Basketball Association in rebounds
1980 Named to the National Basketball Association thirty-fifth anniversary all-time team
1984 Broke Wilt Chamberlain's career scoring record of 31,419 points; broke Jerry West's all-time playoff scoring record
1985 Named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year
1989 Retired with National Basketball Association career records for most minutes (57,446), most points (38,387), most field goals, and first player to play for 20 seasons
1996 Named to the National Basketball Association fiftieth anniversary all-time team
1995 Enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on May 15

Separation notwithstanding, Jabbar and his wife remained close with one another. Their son, Kareem, was born in 1976. In 1977, the year of Jabbar's divorce, he met Cheryl Pistono, and she later gave birth to their son Amir. A second daughter, Sultana, was born to Jabbar and Habiba in 1979, two years after their divorce. A third son, Adam, was born to Jabbar and an unnamed woman.

Although Jabbar's luxurious Bel-Air home was destroyed by a fire early in 1983, he found his faith in Islam and took a philosophical approach. In December of the year he published an autobiography, Giant Steps, with Peter Knobler. Jabbar's later memoir, Kareem, was written with Mignon McCarthy and published in 1990. This book documents his final season with the NBA.

Between 1979 and 1998 Jabbar made ten film appearances. Most of them were as himself, including his roles in Fletch and Forget Paris. He served as the executive producer of The Vernon Johns Story, a made-for-television movie about a civil rights pioneer.

Where Is He Now?

After retiring from the NBA Jabbar took a ten-year hiatus from basketball, returning in 1999. Among his more visible projects during that time, in 1995 he researched and published a book, Black Profiles in Courage. In it he documented the stories of inspirational African Americans: Harriet Tubman of the Underground Railroad, a Moorish slave named Estevanico who discovered Arizona and New Mexico, and others. In the course of his research he spent time at the Fort Apache Indian Reservation near White River, Arizona. He returned to White River in 1999-2000 season to serve as an assistant coach, at Alchesay High School on the reservation. Jabbar accepted only one dollar in compensation for the five-month assignment. He documented the experience in 2000 in a book with Stephen Singular, called Season on the reservation: my sojourn with the White Mountain Apache.

Jabbar, who contributes color commentary to ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, rejoined the NBA briefly as a coach with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2000. He coached a training session with the Indiana Pacers in 2001, and in 2002 joined the United States Basketball League as the head coach of the Oklahoma Storm. He led the Storm to its first league championship but resigned just a few days later without explanation. Observers suggested that he wished to return to coaching in the NBA.

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