After Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spent his first six NBA seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks, his career changed course. The Los Angeles Lakers jumped at the golden opportunity to acquire Abdul-Jabbar. However, the Lakers were not his preferred choice.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s illustrious NBA career
Abdul-Jabbar often gets lost in the shuffle in the GOAT conversation with Michael Jordan garnering much of the shine.
However, his resume speaks for itself, as he accomplished it all over his 20-year career. He earned numerous accolades, such as winning six NBA titles, receiving six regular-season MVP awards, capturing a record of 19 All-Star game selections, and garnering 10 All-NBA First Team nods and five All-NBA Second Team nominations.
After six seasons in Milwaukee, Abdul-Jabbar embarked on a career-changing path to move to Los Angeles, but it wasn’t his first choice.
Kareem Abdul-jabbar wanted to go home but went on to superstardom with the Lakers instead
After spending the first six NBA seasons with the Bucks, Abdul-Jabbar pushed for a career-path change, resulting in his arrival to Los Angeles.
However, the process nearly saw him venture another route. During his Lakers’ introductory press conference, he revealed that he initially wanted to play in his hometown of New York for the New York Knicks. (H/T Essentially Sports)
“I wanted to go to New York and play (there),” Abdul-Jabbar said. “It’s been a dream of mine since I first started playing basketball: to play for the Knickerbockers. But the way things worked out the Lakers were very interested in having me come here and they made sincere determined efforts to get me here.
“They tried to make me feel at home and New York, this just wasn’t the case for them. So I don’t think it’s smart to go around people that don’t really want you, so here I am.”
It’s hard to imagine that the Knicks didn’t want a 27-year-old star, who had already guided the Bucks to an NBA title and won three regular-season MVP awards. New York instead pushed to acquire then four-time All-Star big man Spencer Haywood pair alongside Walt Fraizer and Earl Monroe. The Knicks also rolled with Neal Walk and John Gianelli at center.
Haywood played 3 1/2 seasons with the Knicks where he averaged 17.1 points and 8.6 rebounds. Over that span, New York Struggled to find success, reaching the playoffs once and winning no more than 43 games. Meanwhile, Haywood eventually joined Abdul-Jabbar for the 1979-80 season as part of that championship team.
Ultimately, It’s a case of what could have been for the Knicks that could have seen a much different fate unfold ahead had they pursued star big man.
Cemented his legendary legacy with the Lakers
With Abdul-Jabbar anchoring the charge, the Lakers achieved tremendous sustained success.
Los Angeles missed the playoffs in his first year, but he quickly transformed the franchise behind his stellar play, earning back-to-back MVP awards in his first two seasons. The second campaign featured a trip to the Western Conference Finals. However, things truly took off after Magic Johnson arrived in 1979 as the two pushed the franchise to their first NBA title in nearly a decade.
Abdul-Jabbar captured his sixth and final regular-season MVP award that season, but he maintained his high level of play throughout the rest of his career. His 14-year tenure in Los Angeles featured earning five NBA titles, garnering the 1985 Finals MVP award, receiving three regular-season MVP awards, collecting 13 All-Star game selections, and becoming the league’s all-time leading scorer.
Abdul-Jabbar capitalized on his time with the Lakers, cementing his place as arguably the greatest player in league history.