Editor’s Note: As part of a new series for his podcast, “What’s Wright With Nick Wright,” FOX Sports commentator Nick Wright arranges 50 best NBA players of the past fifty years. The countdown continues today with player No. 2 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The most prominent features of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career:
- Twice Finals Player of the Year
- The best player in the league six times
- All stars 19 times
- 10 times All-NBA First Team, Five Times Second Team
- Defensive first team five times, second team six times
- Twice scoring champion
- 1976 hero recovery
- Four times block leader
- 1970 Rookie of the Year
- First in the all-time scoring list
- 3rd place in the all-time bounce list
By the time Kareem Abdul-Jabbar finally retired from basketball, he had played better and longer than ever. He scored the most shots, scored the most points, and had the most players.
More than three decades later, he still keeps these and many other records. But he’s oddly awkward talking to the greatest player of all time.
“The discussion about goats is always restricted to lebron [James] And the Mikhail [Jordan]“But there is a third person who should be included by any measure, and that is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,” Wright said.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is No. 2 in Nick Wright’s 50 best NBA players in the last 50 years
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s dominance, steadfastness and longevity are unparalleled in NBA history. More than three decades after his retirement, he is still the league’s all-time leading scorer.
For more than half of his 20 seasons, Karim had no peers.
arrived in NBA in 1969 as Lew Alcindor, the most decorated amateur player of all time. He was so good in college that the NCAA banned dunking after his first season in college University of California. Legendary coach John Wooden told Abdul-Jabbar that it would make him better in the end. Not kidding. The restriction prompted the 7-foot-2 smart center to develop Heaven Hook.
“The most unstoppable, unblockable shot in NBA history,” Wright said.
Karim was an instant star in the league, with 28.8 points and 14.5 rebounds per game turning the expansion around. Milwaukee Bucks in contenders for the title. They lost three wins before the 1970 finals, losing to the ultimate champion New York Knicksalthough Karim averages 35-17-4 (with a 57% payoff) in the post-season.
“So what does he do for the second year?” Wright said. “He’s collected up to that point in the greatest single season in NBA history, and he’s starting to finish.”
Karim scored a best 31.1 points in the NBA with 16.0 rebounds as Milwaukee won 66 games, the second most ever at the time. The league’s MVP then averaged 27-17 in the post-season and doubled it per game, defeating Hall of Fame centers Wilt Chamberlain, Wes Unseld and Nate Thurmond in the process, while leading the Bucks to the 12-2 mark and the title.
At the age of 23, he remained the youngest player on the team until his future teammate controversially won the award a decade later.
Statistically, Abdul-Jabbar did better the following season. He went for 35-17-5 in every game to bring her back as the best player. Milwaukee’s attempt to replicate with the champions in the Conference Finals was reduced by 69 wins Lakers The team with a record 33 consecutive wins. It was arguably the best meeting between two teams outside of the Finals, and Karim was the best player ever. His average was 34-18-5 for the series, only to see Milwaukee lose three games by four points or less to the deeper Lakers.
In the 1973 postseason, Abdul-Jabbar struggled off the ground as the Warriors upset the Bucks in the opening round. This would be the only time in his 18 career playoffs he’s come out for a team that didn’t at least make it to the finals.
Karim won his third MVP award in four seasons in 1974, then collected perhaps the best post-season of his career. The Bucks’ lone All-Star averaged 32-16-5 over three rounds, leading the team to the finals. He sank a hook at the last second to force a 7 game, only to see Milwaukee drop in Celtics A group that includes three Hall of Famers in their primes.
“I think this is the first player in the finals to get robbed from him despite losing in the finals,” Wright said. “By the way, they just gave the Finals MVP to a losing player a few years ago at Jerry West. So it wasn’t unprecedented at all.”
The following season was a bit of a lost season for Abdul-Jabbar. He wanted to get out of the Midwest and seek a trade, then broke his hand in pre-season. The club fell without his services for a month and missed the playoffs. In 1975, he was traded to the Lakers, who were in the midst of their rebuilding process. They also failed to make the post-season with Karim, despite him winning the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
He would have won a second straight MVP title and contested two more, but the club only won two playoff series during their first four years in Los Angeles and then Magic Johnson receipt. The rookie wonder’s unique skill set blends beautifully with those of Abdul-Jabbar, who won the league’s Player of the Year title for the sixth time. Moreover, Magic’s boisterous personality aptly contrasts with the introverted giant, whom his classmates respectfully describe as “Cap”. It all added to the “Showtime” Lakers becoming a juggernaut.
Karim had the first five games of the 1980 Finals, including 40 and 15 performances to give Los Angeles a 3-2 streak over Philadelphia 76ers. But a severe ankle sprain sidelined the Ironman in Game Six. That’s when Johnson, of course, jumped into the middle and lost 42-15-7 to take the title. He soon earned a Finals MVP, averaging 22-11-9 with three series steals. Abdul-Jabbar made a 33-14-3 with five blocks.
“This is the second time I think he has stolen the best player in the finals,” Wright said.
Karim responded with another domination campaign in 1981, but the Lakers were upset in the first round Moses Malone and the missiles. Over a dozen seasons, Abdul-Jabbar averaged 28-14-4 in the regular season and 30-16-4 in the playoffs.
“If he stopped playing after the first 12 years of his career, he would be in the top 10 of all time,” Wright said.
But at 34 years old, Cap was nowhere near finished.
He remained a Top 10 player as he rotated with the Magic to lead the Lakers to the next four Finals. The duo led Los Angeles to the 12-2 postseason mark in 1982, again ousting the Sixers. In the 1983 playoffs, Karim lost 30 points six times and averaged 27.1. The Lakers weren’t just a Philly match led by Malone at his peak and Julius Irving at the end of his fame.
“This marks Karim’s transition into a slightly different phase of his career,” Wright said. “He no longer plays like [a] Leviathan defeats the world every night. Instead, save those for the biggest nights.”
Shortly after breaking Chamberlain’s scoring mark at the end of the regular season, Abdul-Jabbar outperformed Los Angeles by scoring (26.6) and rebounding (8.1) against the team. Boston Celtics In the 1984 finals. His 30-10-5 performance resulted in a 6-game win and 29 points in the deciding match. But Boston prevailed, with the Magic struggling in games 5 and 7.
In the rematch in the 1985 Finals, Cap really turned back the clock. His 30-17-8 secured the Lakers up to the series after losing 34 points in Game 1’s “Memorial Day Massacre.” Abdul-Jabbar put 26-14-7 in the Game 3 defeat, and 36-7-7 in Game 5 and 29 wins and 7 to close the chain. At just 38 years old, he played for what appears to be the greatest front line in basketball history, and was in the Finals MVP (26-9-5, 60%).
“What Karim did in this 85th season is absolutely amazing,” Wright said. “Those playoffs, he’s older than LeBron now.”
A full two years later, in the final episode of the Lakers-Celtics trilogy in the 1980s, the 40-year-old Karim went to 32 points in Game 6.
Although Abdul-Jabbar played a more modest role in two finals in Los Angeles, he continued to perform in the decisive matches. In 1988, the Lakers tied two games each Detroit When Karim jumped to 26 points, and his two free throws in the last second were the difference in Game Six – the latter ultimately saving the first successful league title defense since the Celtics led by Bill Russell.
“So, at 41 they didn’t win that title without him,” Wright said. “Come on, the greatest play of their season, and they played it for Karim.”
In the penultimate game of his career, with the Magic out due to injury, 42-year-old Abdul-Jabbar collected 24 points and 13 rebounds in an effort to avoid being overrun by the Pistons. This effectively brought to an end his otherwise incomparable resume.
Karim has stood at the top of the scorers list for 38 years, although James is well on his way to surpassing him next season. Abdul-Jabbar still maintains a good lead in gaining stocks. His 1,074 wins may not be surpassed. His first 15 finishes in the best player in the best player are the most ever.
He takes first place in the minute, second in matches and third in rebounds. He’s also third by blocks, a record he would likely have held if they were tracked over his first four seasons. Abdul-Jabbar is the only player in the last 50 years to average more than 24 points and 11 rebounds per game, and he did so while shooting 56%. His 355 games with more than 30 points and 10 rebounds came second after Chamberlain. No other center comes close to helping Karim’s 5,660 assists.
For the playoffs, the six-time champion is among the top five in points, balls, blocks, games, minutes, and 30-point bids. only him and Shaquille O’Neal Boasted averaging over 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 53% payback. Abdul-Jabbar’s appearance in the Finals 10 came in third all-time.
And while his three New York City titles and three national championships don’t fit into the NBA equation, they contribute to a legacy unparalleled in basketball history.
“You’re talking about a quarter of a century of kicking ass and scoring names at every level of basketball you’re allowed to play,” Wright said. “No one will live in basketball the way Karim used to be. It’s true, I know.”
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