For starters, I can’t think of a more aptly chosen title than Giant Steps for the first autobiography by Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Not only was Kareem a giant among men with his 7”2 frame, but he was also a renowned jazz aficionado. Giant Steps, of course, was one of John Coltrane’s signature albums and considered in the canon of jazz records ever cut.
There is a wealth of information to cull through in this book. Now 70 years of age, Jabbar’s lifespan cuts through the most seminal time period of this country’s modern history. When you consider how Kareem’s playing career parallels the development of the country we now know, this book becomes an important document in U.S. history.
The most notable items from this autobiography are:
- How Kareem’s Catholic upbringing affected his development as a person and a student athlete.
- Growing up in New York (especially Harlem) during the 1950’s and 1960’s and how that affected his self-identity.
- Playing for Jack Donohue at Power Memorial High School.
- The culture shock he encountered while he attended UCLA during the height of “Flower Power” era.
- Playing basketball under the tutelage of Hall of Famer, and master strategist John Wooden.
- His religious conversion to Islam and the subsequent change of his Christian name, Lou Alcindor.
- His disastrous first marriage (an extremely honest and vulnerable chapter).
- His playing days in Milwaukee.
- His perspective on the infamous “punch” by Kermit Washington to Rudy Tomjanovich’s face.
- The trade that sent him to the Lakers and playing during the “Showtime” era.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar is your quintessential renaissance man: intellectual, one of the best athletes of all time, and add to his resume, accomplished author. This a great book and easy read (unlike his other biography, Kareem which at times felt like a long laborious affair). It feels like you are sitting underneath Kareem’s veranda at his house in Hawaii, listening to him tell these stories over a cup of organic tea and a joint. His pen game is highly eloquent, and Jabbar has quite a keen sense of observation for the time period he came of age in, and the historic events that he lived through. This book gets a solid A+ for being so engaging and thorough.
Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @goodassgame. For booking inquiries, send contact info to firstname.lastname@example.org.