Basketball Hall Of Fame member Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has started to feel that he is the “Rodney Dangerfield” of the Los Angeles Lakers as the former center feels he gets no respect from the team he helped win a string of NBA Titles back in the eighties. Abdul-Jabbar in a recent interview with the “Sporting News” stated that he was upset that there is not a statue of him in front of the Staples Center as his former teammate Magic Johnson was given that honor. Thursday morning he was a guest on “Mike And Mike In The Morning” on “ESPN Radio” and told the hosts that he was upset over his treatment in general by the club.
Kareem said that his frustration had been building for quite a long time. The big man said “It’s about a whole lot of smaller incidents that as they pile up on you, you get the feeling that you don’t mean anything to them. For example, I had to take a cut in salary. At the same time they tell me I had to take a cut in salary they’re paying the coach $10 million-$12 million a year. You wonder how much you count when they tell you stuff like that. We were flying on a plane back from Orlando two years ago and they put me in a tiny little seat that I couldn’t be comfortable in and there were empty seats up there where coaches sat, which is where I usually flew with the team. It was little things like that, just little things that started to wear on me and make me feel like I wasn’t appreciated and I certainly wasn’t being treated like family.”
The Lakers legend told the hosts that he had internalized his feelings for a while before deciding to speak out. He said “My tendency is to grin and bear it because I figured there must be something happening that I don’t understand and this is being done out of necessity. Once I get the idea that that wasn’t the case and it wasn’t, I figured maybe it was time for me to speak out. I’ve never been this vocal about anything. I’ve always tried to stay out of the fray and not be an object of controversy. It doesn’t suit me, but something needed to be said.”
The thing that really seems to bother Kareem though is he has not been honored with a statue outside of the Lakers home arena. Johnson, former player and team General Manager Jerry West as well as the late broadcaster Chick Hearn all have statues outside of the Staples Center. Abdul-Jabbar said “At one point (AEG president and CEO and Lakers director) Tim Leiweke told me, ‘Hey, your statue is next.’ Chick Hearn died unexpectedly and they wanted to honor him. I didn’t have any problem with that. Chick has been with the team since 1960 and is part and parcel of what the Lakers are all about. I don’t have any problem with any of the people who got their statues up there, they absolutely earned it. I just kept dealing with me being put on the back-burner when it didn’t seem I was even on the stove at that point.”
Perhaps one of the reasons that the Lakers have not put up a statue of their former center is the fact that he was not loved by the fans as the other three men are. Abdul-Jabbar certainly had the respect of Los Angeles fans but his aloof manner throughout his career most likely kept the fans from embracing him as they did the more charismatic Johnson. Unfortunately this public campaigning for a statues makes Kareem come off as petty and rather childish. If a statue is eventually erected of him there will always be the stigma that if he refrained from complaining it would not have come to pass.
Although Abdul-Jabbar most likely does not realize it, this griping will only serve to tarnish his image. It truly is too bad that he is so seemingly insecure that he has to have gone to the media with his frustrations. He would have been a lot wiser to keep his thoughts within the organization rather than sharing it with the rest of the planet.