In 1977, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was traded to the Bucks. The trade had a huge impact on Isiah Thomas’ life as he became his head coach in Detroit and led them into the playoffs for three consecutive years until they won their first NBA title.
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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a basketball player, who was also known as Lew Alcindor. He played for UCLA and won three NCAA championships before being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1969. In 1971, he changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the most vocal NBA stars these days. He utilizes his Substack to discuss a variety of social problems, and he has chastised great players for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccination. However, there was a perception during his playing days that the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers liked to stay out of the limelight, something Detroit Pistons rookie Isiah Thomas aspired to learn more about.
Thomas first believed the media’s characterization of Captain America as a distant person who was cold and uninterested in interacting with the people. When he set up a meeting with Abdul-Jabbar during the 1982 NBA All-Star Weekend, however, everything changed.
Isiah Thomas, as a teenager, sought Kareem Abdul-counsel Jabbar’s on how to become a champion.
Following a hard recruiting push from Bob Knight, Isiah Thomas had a lot of success at Indiana University, earning a national championship with the Hoosiers in 1981 before being picked No. 2 overall by the Detroit Pistons that summer. However, he had to start from scratch in the NBA and sought help from one of the game’s all-time greats.
During his first All-Star Weekend in 1982, Thomas, as a rookie, sought to sponge up as much knowledge as he could. This includes arranging up a meeting with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in a hotel room in New Jersey (h/t New York Times).
“I asked Kareem if I could come to his hotel room and talk to him about how to win in this league,” says the author.
Abdul-Jabbar would not have seen the Pistons rookie otherwise. He might have gone back to his own life and left Zeke to enquire about the other stars.
Rather, the all-time leading scorer opted to spoil Thomas. Cap’s acceptance and following chat with Isiah modified Isiah’s previous impressions of him.
Kareem provided Thomas with vital insight.
Thomas had a lot of admiration for Kareem Abdul-basketball Jabbar’s abilities. In 1982, however, a hotel room rendezvous with the Lakers’ star resulted in a fresh admiration for Cap as a person.
According to the New York Times, Zeke praised Abdul-Jabbar as “gracious” and “gentle.” He never linked the guy he talked with to the hermit-like person portrayed in the media.
“[Kareem] sat me in his room for almost two hours, just chatting.” I never saw the side of him that so many others mention.”
The New York Times’ Isiah Thomas on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Thomas was immediately aware of Abdul-quiet Jabbar’s demeanor. When Cap informed him about the nastiness he endured throughout his career, he started to comprehend the Hall of Fame center.
“Then [Abdul-Jabbar] told me a few of anecdotes about how he was treated in other venues and the names people called him.” I recall hearing very harsh, derogatory things made about him during a few of his Boston shows. They’d refer to him as a gigantic freak and other derogatory terms.”
–New York Times, via Isiah Thomas
Kareem’s ability to shut out the noise may have rubbed off on Zeke.
Isiah Thomas and the Pistons finally accepted their “Bad Boy” moniker after years of hardship and postseason heartbreak en way to back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990. They defied popular belief that they were a nasty team, with Michael Jordan referring to the Pistons as “unworthy winners.”
In any case, Thomas’ interaction with Kareem left an indelible impression. Over the previous two decades, Zeke’s words and deeds have shown his admiration for Abdul-Jabbar.
Thomas lauded Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s All-Time Greatest Player.
During Kareem Abdul-retirement Jabbar’s ceremony at the Great Western Forum in 1989, Isiah Thomas talks with him | Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Perhaps Isiah Thomas’ ideas on Michael Jordan are skewed because of the Pistons’ rivalry with the Chicago Bulls in the NBA GOAT debate. However, Zeke believes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the rightful owner of that distinction.
In 2020, Thomas said that he believes Cap has the finest basketball CV of any player in the sport’s history, as well as appreciating Kareem for his social activities. Thomas’ admiration for Abdul-Jabbar was evident when he hired the six-time NBA MVP as a scout for the New York Knicks in 2004.
It’s certainly plausible that Kareem alienated Zeke by refusing to communicate with him as a rookie with the Pistons all those years ago. Cap, on the other hand, provided significant insight and inspired Thomas to become a champion.
RELATED: During their playing days, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Charles Barkley had opposing views on their role models status.
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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar changed Isiah Thomas’ perception of him with one hotel-room meeting. The two met in a hotel room to discuss the possibility of coaching Thomas on his basketball team. Reference: isaiah thomas dad.
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