MAILED: Jan. 8, 1997|
EAU CLAIRE - Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will speak about the African American heroes outlined in his recent book, "Black Profiles in Courage," at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire on Tuesday, Feb. 4.
The Forum lecture series will present the National Basketball Association Hall-of-Famer - who has also distinguished himself as a best-selling author, actor and film producer - at 7:30 p.m. in Zorn Arena.
Time magazine has called Kareem Abdul-Jabbar "history's greatest basketball player." Born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor in New York City, the 7-foot-2-inch honor student was recruited for the University of California-Los Angeles by Coach John Wooden.
"More than anyone, he inspired me to understand that being both a scholar and an athlete was certainly within my grasp," Abdul-Jabbar says of his mentor, who spoke on The Forum in 1975.
After leading UCLA to three National Collegiate Athletic Association championships (1967-69), Abdul-Jabbar played for the Milwaukee Bucks (1969-75) and the Los Angeles Lakers (1975-89). He was named Most Valuable player an unprecedented six times, and established more than 20 all-time records during his NBA career. He scored the most career points of any player in history (37,387), scored the most playoff points (5,762), played the most games (1,560), and played the most years (20). He led the Bucks to the NBA title in 1971, and the Lakers to five championships.
"When I played my last professional basketball game on June 13, 1989, I began my passage from one kind of life to another," Abdul-Jabbar begins the acclaimed 1996 book he wrote with Alan Steinberg. "I immediately started addressing myself to young people more often, at basketball clinics and camps, after speeches, sometimes just out and about in my daily life. It has disturbed me for years that so many youngsters seem indifferent and adrift.
"They made me wonder: 'Who are kids' heroes today? What lessons do they have to teach? When I asked this of kids, I was not surprised to learn that their heroes were mainly high-profile athletes and entertainers," he writes. "Virtually none I spoke to knew anything about African Americans of other eras or the history of our people in this country. They knew their favorite athlete's statistics, or a movie star's films, or a rock star's latest hit song. None knew the names or contributions of true African American heroes like Crispus Attucks, Lewis Latimer, and Bass Reeves, never mind anything in depth about more traditional historical figures like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. Few recognized the name of Rosa Parks.
"A few years ago, I felt compelled to write a book about heroic, significant African Americans, if for no other reason than to make important information available to these kinds of kids. I wanted to reemphasize the importance of developing a moral center and character, and the fact that we are all connected to each other in this country and that we should be busy reaffirming our connections, not our differences."
Ranging over four centuries, the book has been praised by Colin Powell as "a fascinating account of the exploits of courageous black men and women. The stories will both educate and inspire readers of all ages and races who still believe in the indomitability of the human spirit."
In his foreword to "Black Profiles in Courage," Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates describes the book as "a highly readable and engaging record of triumph of the human spirit over seemingly insurmountable odds. But [it] is more than this: It is the testimony of a great athlete to the importance of scholarship, study, and intellectual reflection - the crucial importance of the life of the mind."
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has worked with numerous charitable organizations including Athletes and Entertainers for Kids, a national non-profit organization that helps children and teens through education and community service programs. In 1989, he established a special program called "Kareem's Kids," to help young people stay in school and deal with gangs, substance abuse, self-esteem, personal safety and AIDS awareness and education.
Tickets are $10 for the public; $8 for those age 62 and over, and UW-Eau Claire faculty/staff; or $4 for those age 17 and under, and UW-Eau Claire students. Tickets are available at the University Service Center, (715) 836-3727, and will be sold at the door.
The Forum is made possible by student funds allocated by the UW-Eau Claire Student Senate. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's appearance is supported in part by the UW-Eau Claire American Ethnic Coordinating Office.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: April, 22, 1997