How Kareem Abdul-Jabbar formed close bond with John Wooden despite different backgrounds

first_imgEager for any advice on how to succeed in the classroom and the court at the college level, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then a UCLA freshman known as Lew Alcindor, had already established a bond with then-UCLA basketball coach John Wooden before the two visited a local restaurant for a dinner out.The accomplished teacher from Indiana planned to spend their time advising the lanky 7-foot-2 center from New York City on how best to handle the looming attention from physical opponents and inquisitive reporters. Instead, it was the then-middle-aged Wooden who learned something that evening when he was exposed to the racism his 18-year-old dinner guest often endured.As they left the restaurant, an elderly white woman marveled at Abdul-Jabbar’s height before addressing him with a racial slur. Though Wooden’s face turned red, Abdul-Jabbar remembered Wooden “was too much the Midwestern gentleman to verbally attack an old woman.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with Packers“It’s just like for any white person in America. They don’t know what it’s like to be a black person being discriminated against,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “How are they going to find that out?”Wooden soon did. He then apologized to Abdul-Jabbar and pleaded with him not to think all white people are racist.“It really bothered him. It really affected his worldview,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “For someone like him that felt like he had the hands on the reins of everything, that must’ve been a humbling experience.”It was one of many experiences Abdul-Jabbar shares in his new book, “Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-year Friendship On and Off the Court,” which he will promote Saturday at UCLA during a discussion with former Bruins guard Tyus Edney.In the book, one of more than a dozen he’s written, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer reflects plenty on Wooden’s record 10 NCAA championships with UCLA, his famed Pyramid of Success and how he helped Abdul-Jabbar develop his skyhook. The former UCLA and Lakers center also details complicated events that tested and strengthened his relationship with Wooden.center_img “Coach didn’t get it all right,” said Abdul-Jabbar, now 70. “But I talked about that so people didn’t think he was some kind of perfect person. He made mistakes, but the way he dealt with them was first rate.”Wooden initially disapproved of former boxer Muhammad Ali refusing to serve in the Vietnam War. Wooden later respected Ali’s stance and often asked Abdul-Jabbar about him. Wooden, a devout Christian, also supported Abdul-Jabbar’s conversion to Islam and his activism, which included his decision to boycott the 1968 Olympics. Abdul-Jabbar later found a letter Wooden wrote to a fan upset about Abdul-Jabbar’s protest.“Coach had defended me by explaining the kinds of racial slurs that were commonly used against me, and why I may have felt less than enthusiastic in representing my country in those tumultuous times,” Abdul-Jabbar recalled. “Coach never told me about her letter or his response, but reading it was one of the most touching moments in my life.”Abdul-Jabbar also was touched when Wooden facilitated a phone conversation with the late Jack Donohue, Abdul-Jabbar’s high school coach at Power Memorial Academy (N.Y.). Their relationship was strained after Donohue addressed the former Alcindor with a racial slur in a poor attempt to motivate him during a game. Abdul-Jabbar and Donohue reconciled during that phone call.“Coach Wooden got me to understand I had to let go of it,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “(Coach Donohue) made a mistake. He overreacted to my cockiness and arrogance. The tools that (Wooden) gave us enabled us to live better lives. We learned how to deal with things.”Abdul-Jabbar believes Wooden would support present-day athletes who choose to be vocal about political or social issues. Abdul-Jabbar has serious doubts, though, about Wooden adapting to the one-and-done era of college basketball.“I don’t think Coach Wooden would have been able to work in this environment,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Kids are coming into school today and know how the NCAA has made it so they can’t make any money. So one-and-done to them is justice. But Coach Wooden expected his players to get an education.”Abdul-Jabbar also predicted Wooden “wouldn’t have wanted to deal with” LaVar Ball, the outspoken father of UCLA guard Lonzo Ball. Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson has dismissed whether that would deter the Lakers from drafting him with the No. 2 pick. But Abdul-Jabbar did not endorse his alma mater’s star player.“I don’t know,” Abdul-Jabbar said when asked what Lonzo Ball could bring to the Lakers. “I hope they research what this choice is going to be about very closely. I think Earvin will totally get into all aspects of it and make a wise choice.”Abdul-Jabbar said Johnson and Lakers controlling owner Jeanie Buss have asked him to meet in a few weeks to discuss a possible role with the organization. Abdul-Jabbar is one of a handful of Lakers luminaries who were brought in to speak with the franchise’s young players last season.“They can improve, but it takes hard work,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “They have to listen to the coaches. So many of them are so enamored with their own talent that they don’t realize they still have things to learn.”Abdul-Jabbar also expressed interest in mentoring Lakers second-year center Ivica Zubac, who has worked on his hook shot with longtime Lakers consultant Bill Bertka.“He’s equipped to use it well,” Abdul-Jabbar said of Zubac. “He has the length to begin with. If he can develop his shooting touch and agility, he’ll use it well.”Abdul-Jabbar mastered the skyhook partly because the NCAA temporarily banned the dunk, a decision Wooden supported.“Coach was just trying to preserve the beauty of the sport,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “He was afraid it would deteriorate into a bunch of burly brutes jamming the ball through the hoop. He wanted to preserve the gracefulness and intellectual complexity of the sport and I understood that.”Since Wooden’s passing in 2010, Abdul-Jabbar said he has developed a greater understanding of the strength of their bond. It centered on basketball but included passion for literature, history and music and a mutual respect of their different backgrounds. It took Abdul-Jabbar seven years to write that story.“I had to think about what Coach Wooden meant to my life,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Then I had to think about how much did I want to share with the public? Some of it is private. But it is very meaningful.”last_img read more

June 8, 1989: When the Pirates blew a 10-0 lead, forcing announcer Jim Rooker to walk 327 miles

first_imgNot that he’d ever forget those nearly two weeks of walking, but he apparently took home a permanent souvenir.”I still have a left ankle that bothers me today because of that,” he told “Sports Talk.”That lesson again: Always think before you speak. Think before you speak, even in baseball, and even when something seems, well, unthinkable. Think before you speak, especially when you speak to hundreds of thousands of people for a living.Jim Rooker can tell you a fun story about that. It’s a lesson he learned on June 8, 1989 — the day the former Pirates broadcaster made a seemingly innocent (and safe) statement after the Buccos scored 10 runs in the top of the first against the Phillies in Philadelphia. “If we lose this game, I’ll walk back to Pittsburgh,” Rooker told partner John Sanders — and everyone listening on the radio.MORE: Watch ‘ChangeUp,’ a new MLB live whiparound show on DAZNWell, despite Rooker’s 13 years as a big league pitcher, plus another nine years as a broadcaster to that point, he apparently forgot that baseball has a weird, sick sense of humor. Especially when a team has lost six straight.Pirates players remembered, though.”I looked at the umpires and I said, ‘Yeah, we finally got a lead,'” the Pirates’ Bobby Bonilla recalled later that season. “They said, ‘You finally got a lead in one game.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, but, you know, it’s not over yet.'”Enter baseball’s twisted sense of humor. After the Pirates dropped 10 in the top of the first, the Phillies outscored them 15-1 the rest of the game. If you want more evidence of baseball’s sense of humor, the normally light-hitting Steve Jeltz, who didn’t even start the game and had two career homers at that point, belted two dingers that night — which ended up accounting for half his homers on the season.Jeltz’s first homer, a two-run shot, made it a 10-6 game. After Jeltz barreled that homer, the game itself seemed to be barreling toward an inevitable conclusion.”I could’ve told you then that there was a good chance we were going to lose that game,” then-Pirates manager Jim Leyland said later. “When you’re a manager, your gut usually tells you that something’s not right. It’s a freaky thing. You can usually feel it.”Well, Leyland’s gut was on point. From there, Jeltz hit his second homer, there were more hits, there was a run-scoring wild pitch and yada, yada, yada, the Phillies took the lead and eventually won 15-11. It was the Pirates’ seventh straight loss.Rather than brushing off his pledge to walk back to Pittsburgh as merely a throwaway line played for laughs, Rooker, 46 at the time, stayed true to his word, even making some public good out of it by turning the trek into a walk for charity. The event was dubbed “Rook’s Unintentional Walk,” with a sporting goods company donating hiking gear and four corporate sponsors underwriting the trip. Rooker and a friend took their first steps from Philadelphia on Oct. 5 and walked through the center field gate at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh at 12:52 p.m. on Oct. 17 — a walk of 327 miles. The pair averaged more than 24 miles a day, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.”I’m OK from the ankles up, but from the ankles down I feel like I’ve been stabbed with ice picks,” he told Sporting News after the walk.MORE: 10 single-season MLB feats we’ll never see againThere was good news, though: Rooker’s many steps ultimately raised around $100,000 for charity by some estimates, with money going to Children’s Hospitals of Pittsburgh and Bob Prince Charities. Still, it was an ordeal.”It’s something I would never do again,” he told SN later, “but the response of the people was absolutely tremendous.”Here’s a vintage MLB feature detailing the whole, silly affair.Years later, Rooker explained the thinking behind his “I’ll walk back to Pittsburgh proclamation.””In all the years I’ve been in baseball, I’ve never been on a team that’s been ahead by 10 runs and lost, or been behind by 10 runs and come back and win a game,” he told “Monday Night Sports Talk,” a Connecticut cable show, in 2013. “I didn’t say it thinking that it was going to be a challenge of any kind. I just thought it was a normal thing to say.”last_img read more

Drake University unveils $63 million housing, retail project

first_imgDES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Drake University says it is selling or leasing more than four acres of land on the east edge of its Des Moines campus to a developer for construction of apartments, townhomes, commercial space and a parking garage.Drake President Marty Martin said Monday the proposed development valued at more than $63 million will create a “walkable, vibrant hub of retail and restaurant options” for the private university located northwest of city’s central business district.Cedar Falls-based Merge Urban Development Group will get federal tax incentives for developing in the federally designated Qualified Opportunity Zone, a program for improving low-income areas.The new announcement follows a new Hilton hotel and restaurant already under construction in the area and a planned $8 million new Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement, a center named after former Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin.last_img read more