Last night, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant passed Michael Jordan for third on the all-time NBA career scoring list. The milestone led to a spirited debate between talking heads both on air and on-line about whether Kobe is now the "greatest player of all time?"
Much of the discussion focused on Kobe's five NBA titles and 32-thousand points--and Jordan's six NBA titles and 32-thousand points. But missing from the discussion was another player with six NBA titles and SIX-THOUSAND MORE POINTS THAN KOBE AND MJ!! That would be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Kareem never seems to be mentioned in "Greatest of All Time" discussions. Maybe it's because he was a center and relied upon others to get him the ball in the low post. Maybe it's because he played longer than everyone else--and people just assume that he got all of the scoring records due to longevity. But most likely, Kareem doesn't get his historical due because most of his career came before ESPN, nightly highlight shows and YouTube.
If it isn't in hi-def video, it never happened for people today. Anyone under 40 probably only remembers Kareem as the guy who was trailing the play while Magic Johnson and James Worthy were leading the Showtime Lakers past everybody. Anyone under 30 probably never saw Kareem play in a game. But what they don't seem to remember is that Kareem was one of the most-dominant players in the history of the game.
He was the most-sought-after high school player in the country before choosing to go across the country from New York to attend UCLA. With the Bruins he lost one game in his entire three years of playing--one game--and he led the Bruins to three straight NCAA titles. Kareem was so dominant that the NCAA changed the rules to ban dunking because nobody could stop him in the low post--still didn't slow down the Bruins.
In the NBA Kareem unleashed the ultimate, unstoppable offensive move--the Sky Hook--and used it to accumulate most of his 38,387 points. I've seen pictures of Kareem tossing the Sky Hook over Wilt Chamberlain and David Thompson and dozens of other helpless big men--all jumping and reaching as high as they could--but the ball sailing just past their out-stretched fingers and finding the bottom of the net, again and again and again.
So if you tune over to sports talk radio or TV today and start hearing the Kobe vs Michael talk again, try to remember that "the Black Mamba" would have to average 20-points a game for almost the next FIVE YEARS to catch Kareem.