Edit ModuleShow Tags

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Shows Off His Storytelling Skills at PLNU

The athlete turned author will share stories from on and off the court during this month’s Writer’s Symposium by the Sea


Published:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar | Photo by Dan Winters

Few people are as recognizable in public as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the 7-foot-2 basketball legend who set records with the UCLA Bruins, LA Lakers, and Milwaukee Bucks. But it’s not his hoop skills that he’ll be showing off when he comes to San Diego this month.

Abdul-Jabbar will talk about his reinvention as an author during Point Loma Nazarene University’s 23rd annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea. Since retiring from the NBA, the sports star has penned pieces for the New York Times, Washington Post, and Time, in addition to writing two memoirs last year, Coach Wooden and Me and Becoming Kareem.

Here, PLNU’s journalism program director and symposium founder Dean Nelson chats with the basketball legend about storytelling and switching career gears.
 

After retiring your jersey, you made a commitment to tell stories that needed to be told. Have you always had that motivation?

My nonfiction work is intended to inform the public about African American history, as well as discuss America’s social and political conflicts. My fiction is where I do my storytelling. That comes from my being an avid reader as a child. I would sit in my room and devour The Three Musketeers, Treasure Island, The Count of Monte Cristo, and all the classic adventure novels. It wasn’t until after I retired from the NBA that I had the time to really devote myself to writing.
 

Coach Wooden and Me shows how different you and your UCLA coach were. Is there a broader lesson for readers in that, given how divided our nation is today?

One of the lessons Coach Wooden taught us was “Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.” Coach and I didn’t always agree on specific social and political issues, but we respected each other enough to listen with an open mind. Unfortunately, fear drives many people, and that fear is exploited by politicians who profit from divisiveness.
 

As an athlete, you saw how powerful it was to take a stand publicly for a social issue. Do you see some similarities from those days to today’s athletes standing up for cures for breast cancer, and against bullying or police brutality?

Colin Kaepernick has led the protest with grace. The mark of his courage is that he has so much to lose career-wise, yet has consistently stood his ground. The important thing about people protesting is that they don’t give up until the goal is achieved. It was so heartening to see the other players, coaches, and even some owners in solidarity.
 

Sci-fi, mystery, history, political commentary, children’s books—you write it all. Do you have a favorite?

Not really. Each expresses a different facet of my personality and interests. I’m excited about my latest book, Becoming Kareem, which is my autobiography from grade school through my first year in the NBA, when I officially changed my name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The book is about my struggles with height, race, sports, and how my various mentors helped me face and overcome those challenges. I’m hoping the book will help other kids face their own personal challenges.
 

Bill Walton has done some writing lately. Do you have any advice for him?

He’s a funny, articulate, passionate person and that comes through in his writing. I don’t think Bill needs any advice from me.


Writer’s Symposium by the Sea
February 19–23 at Point Loma Nazarene University

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

Letter from the Editor: All About That (Sea) Bass

Editor in Chief Erin Meanley Glenny dishes on the June issue of San Diego Magazine

Meet the Players of San Diego's New Rugby Team

7 Legion players on their favorite things about San Diego, and why rugby is better than football

Tony Winner Audra McDonald Heads to San Diego

The Beauty and the Beast and Private Practice actress takes the stage at Copley Symphony Hall
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Vote Now for San Diego's Best Restaurants 2018
    From burritos to bottomless mimosas, you choose San Diego’s best eats and drinks in 90 categories
  2. Personal Stories are on Display at the Museum of Man's 'PostSecret'
    Frank Warren collects deep, dark secrets for this community arts project
  3. The Best Burgers in San Diego
    These burgers are food critic Troy Johnson's finalists for the best in San Diego
  4. The Best of North County 2018
    Our annual list of what we’re loving above the 56, from bites and brews to shopping, wellness, and arts and kids’ activities galore
  5. 31 Best Places to Live in San Diego
    Five local homeowners share their advice, tips, and tricks on how they sealed the deal
  6. Has Anything Really Changed Since Ballast Point Sold to Constellation?
    More than two years after the acquisition, misinformation and misunderstanding still abound
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

Vote Now for Your Orangetheory Winner!

Winners will be announced at our Sweat event on May 12

Go Ahead... Ask McMillin!

At McMillin Realty, we are encouraging you to bring us your real estate questions. We will answer these questions….. for free.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

AquaVie: 10 Reasons It’s Downtown’s Best Kept Secret

The best workout and spa getaway around? It’s actually right underneath your nose.

Enter a Drawing You Could Actually Win

There are more than 1,700 prizes in the Dream House Raffle
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags