By Will Baldwin
As the clock ticked down to end game four of the 2018 NBA Finals, most fans assumed the Finals MVP would belong to Steph Curry. But, when Kevin Durant was handed the award, it sparked wide spread questioning amongst basketball fans. Would Curry ever win the award? How did Durant get it? All sorts of questions yet somehow, none were positive towards Durant.
This is a fate all too familiar to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as well.
Kareem was constantly overshadowed in his career both with the Los Angeles Lakers and, since his retirement in 1989 by a more personable, media savvy point guard taking the world by storm. How is it possible that a six time NBA MVP (the most ever) could be overshadowed by any teammate? Well, welcome to the enigmatic superstars world.
Much like Durant, Abdul-Jabbar was drafted to a small city in the middle of America, far from his home. Lew Alcindor, as he was named then, would even play with the original ‘Mr. Triple-Double’ Oscar Robertson but the difference between him and Durant is with the Milwaukee Bucks, Alcindor was able to win a championship away from the California sun.
After six years in Milwaukee, four MVP’s and a name change to go with his religion of Islam, Abdul-Jabbar forced a trade to Los Angeles. There, he would go on to win five more championships, one more MVP and, finish as professional basketball’s all-time leading scorer. Yet in 2018, the man who was once so dominant in college that they banned dunking is never really brought up in the debates as the best player in basketball history.
The reason for this is quite simple, Kareem never had the personality that leads to being embraced by the larger public. He was never a major shoe seller or even all that personable with fans no, he lived his life in a completely different way than anyone has ever seen.
All of this relates back to today’s very different NBA superstar, Kevin Durant. Durant constantly says things in interviews that leave fans perplexed and asking why and his actions often cause similar sentiments.
To say it is rare for a professional athlete at the peak of his profession to say that he is contemplating retirement in five years because ‘sometimes you have to graduate and move forward’ would be a gross understatement but, that is Kevin Durant.
See for Durant and Abdul-Jabbar, life is about a whole lot more than basketball, no matter how great they are at it.
Kareem for example has authored multiple books on topics such as World War Two, Jazz music, New York’s Inner city and many more. He also continues to be an advocate for human rights, the muslim faith and the importance of education.
Durant on the other hand has a constantly growing business portfolio centred largely on multiple tech companies in Silicon Valley. He also constantly gives money to youth in the form of scholarships and the promotion of education in hopes of helping inner-city communities.
Somehow though, the media finds a way in covering these two men to ignore their work off the court for instead their enigmatic personalities.
Kareem for example is constantly said to have been a difficult teammate to deal with in Los Angeles while Durant’s character is still being chastised for his decision to leave Oklahoma City.
All of this is a long winded way of saying, there is a whole lot more than meets the eye with Durant and Abdul-Jabbar. Their basketball skills transcended the sport entirely with Kareem’s unblockable skyhook and Kevin’s never before seen array of his offensive skill set. Both are quite likely the greatest scorers we have ever seen at their positions and both are MVP’s without their most famous teammates.
Yet, despite all of their incredible on the floor talents, their ‘unique’ personalities that the media and fans alike do not naturally connect with will always be overshadowed by their point guards, even if they are the better players.
I guess that is the life of the enigmatic superstar.