Kareem Abdul Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the greatest player in basketball history and there’s no debate. He dominated in high school, at UCLA, and in the NBA. (Photo Credit: Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images)

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the Greatest Player in Basketball History

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the greatest player in basketball history and that isn’t up for debate. But before I get into the reasons why, I want to provide some context to this rather unprovoked sentiment.

It started a few days ago in the Vendetta NBA chat on Slack. Karl had just posted his rather controversial statements surrounding Kobe’s potential placement outside of the top 10 players in league history. I think the Black Mamba is ranked somewhere between the 7-9 range, but that’s neither here nor there in this post.

As the debate evolved, it began to include everyone’s top 10. The seeding of Tim Duncan, Bill Russell, and Wilt Chamberlain was all discussed, as well as the inflation of stats, minutes, and how we should – or shouldn’t – compare eras of basketball.

It then naturally came to the GOAT debate. Is it MJ? Is it LeBron? Well certainly don’t ask Christian Ishoo. He’ll say it’s the King. Our boss eventually got tired of the conversation and went back to watching the Red Sox game. Meanwhile, I kept scrolling and when there was break, decided to give my opinion on why the greatest player in basketball history isn’t arguable. It’s Kareem and here’s why.

He is the Greatest High School Basketball Player Ever

Back in high school, Kareem wasn’t Kareem yet. He was a 7-foot kid named Lew Alcindor hailing from Dyckman Street in Manhattan. Alcindor played his prep ball at Power Memorial High School where he led the school to three consecutive city titles. He was 95-6 in his three-year career with Memorial, an absolutely staggering record, which also included a 71-game win streak. His 2,067 points scored at the prep level were a New York City record. He also eclipsed 2,000 rebounds in his three years of high school basketball, but it’s almost a footnote in the history of his game. I really wish we had tape of those days, because if I had to walk home in my Converse Chuck Taylor’s after getting handed a 40-piece by a 17-year-old Alcindor, I probably never would’ve touched a basketball again.

He is Far and Away the Best College Basketball Player Ever

I’m going to rattle off Kareem’s collegiate stats and as you read, I want you to keep one thing in mind: the greatest player in collegiate history was not allowed to play as a freshman – first-year players were not allowed to play varsity until 1972. When he did get to suit up, he won three consecutive national championships with John Wooden. He had a 78-2 record in powder blue and gold. Kareem – still Lew Alcindor at this point – was three-time national player of the year, a unanimous three-time All-American selection, and won Most Outstanding Player during each national championship run. He was also the inaugural winner of the Naismith College Player of the Year in 1969. Alcindor averaged 26.4 points and 15.5 rebounds per game at UCLA. These are absolutely mind-boggling statistics and accolades and despite the acclaimed collegiate careers of Bill Walton, Christian Laettner, Michael Jordan and more, none of them come within a country mile of Kareem.

He is a Top 3 Player in NBA History, With a Great Argument for GOAT Status

Kareem had the most un-guardable shot in basketball history: the skyhook. At 7’1”, he would take one dribble with his right hand and elevate into a one-legged curled shot that when it left his fingertips, you were certain it was a bucket. Abdul-Jabbar won rookie of the year with the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1969-70 season. He won the Bucks first title in 1971, averaging 31.7 points, 16 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He also won his first of six MVP awards in the 1970-71 season. Kareem went on to win five more titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, along with five MVP awards. He is a 19-time All-Star and 15-time All-NBA honoree, with 11 All-Defensive team honors to boot. His 38,387 points scored in his 20-year career are the most in league history.

The GOAT debate has, for the past decade, been reserved to solely Jordan and LeBron, but why not consider Kareem? He’s won just as many titles as Jordan. He has more MVPs than both Jordan and LeBron. He scored more points than the pair of 23’s and won a championship with the team that drafted him before jumping ship. The disrespect has long been shown, but it has never been warranted. And maybe’s it time we finally make the GOAT debate a three horse race.

Kareem dominated all three levels of basketball in the United States. He is the greatest player to ever come out of New York – the mecca of hoops in the United States. At UCLA, he lost two games in his entire collegiate career. In the NBA, he won six titles, six MVPs and was a 19-time All-Star. I mean what else is there to say about him?

I’m willing to bet that at least 50% of NBA Twitter, fans and pundits weren’t alive or old enough to remember what Kareem did in basketball for nearly 30 years. I’m a 19-year-old, but at least I do my research. Some of it’s due to my dad – I have to give credit where it’s due. But let’s stop disrespecting Kareem in the NBA GOAT debate.

And we can debate for days on how to order the top three in NBA history, but there’s no doubt that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the greatest basketball player to ever walk the earth.


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