Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Opens Up About John Wooden Friendship In New Book

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We’re only one day removed from the NBA draft lottery and looking forward to next month’s draft, where the first round will be dominated by one-and-done players. To say the college basketball landscape has evolved is an understatement.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is considered by many as the greatest college basketball player of all time for what he did at UCLA — as Lew Alcindor. Of course, Abdul-Jabbar had no shortage of help on one of college sports’ greatest dynasties, a program headed by the incomparable John Wooden.

Wooden has since passed, but Abdul-Jabbar reflected on his longstanding friendship with his mentor in an upcoming book titled  “Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court.”

“Coach Wooden was one of the most humble and honest people I have ever met,” Abdul-Jabbar told The Hollywood Reporter. “He famously said, ‘If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.’ Sometimes those mistakes included misjudging a player or letting certain biases creep in. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t done that, but I also don’t know anyone who was quicker to admit his mistakes and try to do better.

“Coach would have been disappointed in me if I’d tried to characterize him as some saintly paragon of perfection. His whole life was dedicated to teaching us to improve ourselves. And nothing was more inspirational to us doing that than seeing him do it for himself.”

As for today’s college hoops culture, Abdul-Jabbar can’t help but lament how things have changed.

“They’re there less than six months,” he told Newsday. “It’s not even six months and they’re gone. It’s a travesty, I think. They’re just using the college system as a steppingstone to the NBA, and that’s really unfortunate. I think an education is vital to having a good life and these guys aren’t getting that opportunity. It’s sad.”

Thumbnail photo via Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports Images

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