The moment the Lakers unveil Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's statue Friday at Star Plaza outside Staples Center, everyone will see a 16-foot, 1,500-pound bronze image of the player who delighted Lakers fans and frustrated opponents.
"It's me in a classic sky-hook pose," Abdul-Jabbar said in a phone interview. "It looks good."
Other images will also be on display. The Showtime Lakers -- including Magic Johnson, James Worthy, coach Pat Riley and general manager Jerry West -- will be among the key speakers at the unveiling.
Abdul-Jabbar will reflect on a storied 20-year career with the NBA, where he remains the league's all-time leading scorer (38,387 points) and won five of his six NBA titles and three of his six league MVP awards with the Lakers.
And Abdul-Jabbar hopes no ill will emerges from his criticism of the Lakers 17 months ago for not unveiling his statue sooner.
"I didn't handle that well. I had something to talk about, but I started to vent on it," he said. "I didn't need to do that."
Has Abdul-Jabbar made amends with the Lakers?
"It seems like it's OK," he said. "Dr. Buss was ill earlier this year, and I visited him. He was happy to see me. I don't think this is going to be a lingering issue between me and him and the people who run the franchise."
If there are, they could always share those issues during Abdul-Jabbar's celebrity roast Saturday hosted by comedian George Lopez at the JW Marriott L.A. Live
"I'm ready for the most part," Abdul-Jabbar said, laughing. "It's been so long since I've played, so hopefully guys have forgotten about a whole lot of stuff."
No one will forget about Abdul-Jabbar's famed sky hook, though.
In an exercise dating to fourth grade in Harlem, N.Y., Abdul-Jabbar repeatedly worked on what he called the "George Mikan drill." For that, Abdul-Jabbar stood at the right side of the basket, attempted a hook shot off the glass and then rebounded the ball. The drill placed a premium on using both hands, perfecting his footwork and, of course, mastering his hook shot. He also marveled at other elite centers from afar, such as Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.
Soon enough, Abdul-Jabbar used his distinctive skill set to help UCLA to three national championships. He won even more with the Lakers.
"It made me very confident that I could score," Abdul-Jabbar said. "I was never a bruiser. 'Shaq' (O'Neal) shed defenders like ducks shed water. Those guys were too small and not strong enough to guard him. I didn't have that advantage. But my quickness and length, I was able to use that to a greater advantage."
Yet, Abdul-Jabbar maintains he didn't care about holding the scoring record, saying, "I just wanted to win." He also downplayed suspicions he wanted to top his rival Chamberlain, who remains fourth on the league scoring list (31,419).
"I didn't eclipse Wilt. I did something Wilt didn't do because I played longer and I made my free throws," Kareem said with a laugh. "I never scored 100 points in a game or averaged 55 points a game. Wilt did stuff that was phenomenal, and no one is ever going to just push him out of the picture."
Also behind Abdul-Jabbar on the scoring list: Karl Malone (36,928), Michael Jordan (32,292) and Kobe Bryant (29,695). Will anyone ever break Abdul-Jabbar's record?
"Sure, but somebody is going to have to play pretty close to 20 years and be the offensive focus and be someone the coach wants him to take a lot of shots," he said. "Who knows who is going to last that long. LeBron (James) and Kobe can certainly score and might do it. But most people tell me they're making too much money and won't want to play that long."
Abdul-Jabbar has other concerns beyond his playing legacy.
This past year, he has served as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. Department of State, traveling to Brazil to speak about education issues.
For the past month, Abdul-Jabbar has worked as California's After School STEM ambassador, a gig that involves him speaking about the importance of science and math in education. With that role, Abdul-Jabbar will go on a nationwide city tour next year where he will unveil more than 300 pieces of memorabilia that reflect his career. Proceeds from tickets to such events will benefit his foundation and the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program.
But first things first.
Abdul-Jabbar will soon see his likeness on full display. It's a moment he waited for a while, and one he's eventually learned to appreciate.
"I'm very thankful and really appreciative," he said. It will be a nice thing to share with the fans and have some fun moments with it."
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