NBA hall of fame legend LeBron James has few equals in the history of basketball. The number of players he could truly be compared to in terms of excellence as a player could be counted on one hand, and when you factor in his off-court impact on both his own sport and the sports world at large, that list dwindles even further. Through sheer numbers alone, it is rare for James to receive vindication from one of his true contemporaries, but it came on Friday when Los Angeles Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote a sprawling piece on him for News Week that called him, among other things, a hero. 247sports
Abdul-Jabbar is one of the very few players in league history who, at least at this moment, is as accomplished as James. He is a six-time NBA champion and six-time MVP who remains the high watermark for longevity that James is trying to match. But off of the court, Abdul-Jabbar was during his career and remains to this day an astute social activist. He used his profile as a basketball player to impact the world around him, as James so often has. James is lavished with praise just about every day, but when someone of Abdul-Jabbar’s stature is the one delivering it, he takes notice. He responded to Abdul-Jabbar’s words on Twitter, expressing his gratitude to a player and person whose resume he’d one day like to match.
In many ways, Abdul-Jabbar’s journey with the Lakers mirrors James’. LeBron is trying to drag this young team into the postseason much as Abdul-Jabbar tried to do with his early Lakers teams. He missed out on the playoffs in his first season in Los Angeles because the Lakers hadn’t yet put enough talent around him to make it. James joined a similarly incomplete roster. Abdul-Jabbar finally made it back to the NBA Finals when the Lakers lucked into Magic Johnson with a draft pick acquired years earlier, while the Lakers hope that an offseason coup of a similar superstar might do the same for James.
A real honor to have someone of your stature and legacy feel that way about me! Truly appreciative you 🙏🏾‼️‼️‼️ https://t.co/b33vcupcgQ
— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 23, 2019
But moving to Los Angeles represented a major change for Abdul-Jabbar off of the court as well. He had only changed his name from Lew Alcindor a few years prior to joining the Lakers, and relocating to Los Angeles allowed him to connect with the city’s wider Muslim population. James may not have undergone quite as large a shift in his life when he chose to become a Laker, but he has been open about the off-court implications of his move. Abdul-Jabbar used his presence as an NBA star in Los Angeles to impact the world for the better. Now James is in position to do the same, and recognition from someone who has already done so is proof that he’s doing so effectively. 247sports