Friday, May 20, 2011


First of all, the headline is pretty funny.

The man is known for many things– his iconic and unstoppable skyhook, the goggles, championships at UCLA, MVP awards in the NBA, appearances in Airplane! and Full House– none of which are his absolute contentedness. It's a headline in the vein of "Sky Is Above Us" and "Music Has Notes." It doesn't exactly shatter our idea of Kareem or make us feel like we're learning something new. It's a little more like what my friend used to say about listening to female artists like Sarah Mclachlan and Natalie Merchant; he always felt like he'd hear their songs and think, "Awww...what's wrong now, Natalie?"

As a kid, I read Kareem's autobiography, the second one, entitled Kareem. I was a fan of Showtime. I can rattle off the names of the role players on those Laker teams. I remember Kareem's big farewell season, when teams were gifting him rocking chairs and stuff. And as the brother of somebody who died of cancer, I have deep sympathy for his battle with leukemia. So I come from a place of at least moderate measuredness.

I get that Kareem is one of the Lakers' and the NBA's and the history of basketball's greatest players. Dominant at every level, a crazy specimen in both his peaks and his longevity. He's way more than a Hall of Famer. He's in the argument for most dominant ever (the argument only, though, because it's still Jordan) I will not argue that.

And that's precisely why this statue tantrum is so crazy. Are all the other accolades not enough? Was being recognized as an All-Star NINETEEN times a little condescending? Were you not awarded your SIX MVP trophies with enough fawning adulation? Were the SIX championships and TWO Finals MVP trophies not given enough weight in the public eye? Is it feeling a little snubby to have only won THREE NCAA titles and who knows how many All-NBA and All Defensive team spots? Is the fact that the NCAA banned the dunk primarily because of your dominance not quite outstanding enough?

Kareem has been honored plenty for his playing, which he stopped doing 22 years ago. Now, I'm not going to argue that there shouldn't be a statue of Kareem outside the Staples Center. That's not the point. Magic has one. Chick Hearn has one. I think Kareem meant as much to basketball as those two greats did.

The point is: since when are we entitled to statues? Since when does anyone DESERVE a statue? Especially while we're still alive? David slew Goliath and got a statue in Florence, Italy hundreds of years later; not even the place where he downed the giant. Beethoven only got a lousy bust that goes on top of your grandma's piano; the least she could do is dust it.

Want a statue today? Commission it yourself, Kareem. You've gotten more recognition and opportunities and money in your post-playing career than most of us will ever see in a lifetime. You're a legend. Even your biggest critics have to admit that. Now stop acting like a jealous toddler, EXPECTING a statue and move on with your life.

Kareem has a history of shoulder chips, abrasiveness, and moaning about opportunities that haven't been his, mistreatment, and more. Some of the chips are probably justified. But not the statue tantrum.

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