As a lifelong fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, having Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as LMU’s commencement speaker this year is beyond exciting. At over seven feet tall, Abdul-Jabbar was one of the greatest college players to ever step foot on the court and became a top NBA player. Abdul-Jabbar’s impact on basketball is nearly unmatched.
Abdul-Jabbar was one of UCLA’s best all-time players, leading them to three NCAA championships, which could have been four, but he played at a time when freshmen could not be on the varsity team. He was awarded NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player and was also a three-time recipient of the National College Player of the Year award consecutively from 1967 to 1969.
At 71 years old, he has played with and against many of basketball’s greatest players. He is a living piece of basketball history, playing with the likes of Hall of Fame basketball players Magic Johnson and James Worthy on the 1980s Showtime Lakers. He also spent the first half of his career with Hall of Fame awardee Oscar Robertson in Milwaukee with the Bucks, where he won his first championship. His signature hook shot is one of the most iconic moves in all of basketball, along with being one of the most unguardable shots ever, earning the nickname "the skyhook." Abdul-Jabbar was also a defensive force, being selected to the NBA All-Defensive First Team 11 times in his career.
Having him as the undergraduate commencement speaker at LMU this year is exciting for any resident of Los Angeles, where his statue stands tall in front of Staples Center, home of the Lakers and Clippers. I look forward to hearing the messages he sends to the graduating seniors, offering his years of life knowledge from living in times of intense racism and adversity and still succeeding despite it.