BOZICH | Kareem Abdul-Jabbar calls basketball's one-and-done system 'travesty'
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, basketball's greatest player, had strong comments about the one-and-done rule in an interview about his book about UCLA coach John Wooden.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- If a sports writer called the one-and-done situation in college basketball a "travesty," I’d advise you to move along, nothing to see here except a crank moaning about the good old days.
If a college coach rolled out the word travesty, I’d predict it was a coach who had not moved within eight miles of actually signing a prospect with one-and-done talent.
But when the greatest player in the history of college basketball called the one-and-done rule a "travesty" Monday night, I figured I should pay attention and share the news.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is not a drive-by Twitter addict or a guy known for pounding his fist and screaming for attention.
Abdul-Jabbar is a savvy, thoughtful, insightful man, a social commentator and activist with roots on both coasts, a Hall of Famer who has always strived to be defined by his intellect not his sky hook. Time magazine often prints his essays — and they’re not essays about Kevin Durant’s feud with Russell Westbrook.
Abdul-Jabbar is the dinosaur’s dinosaur. Not only did he invest four years in college and earn a degree, he performed on UCLA’s freshman team during his first season on campus. NCAA rules required that freshmen take a year to acclimate to their new environment and develop functional study habits.
During an appearance in New York Monday, Abdul-Jabbar was asked by The Associated Press about college basketball, the NBA and the NBA Draft Lottery, which is scheduled for Tuesday night.
You know, the whole one-and-done thing, where guys cycle into the pros 20 minutes after they arrive on campus. I’ll take a timeout here for the mandatory disclaimer:
One-and-done is not a college basketball rule. It’s an NBA rule, driven by the Players Association. College coaches have to make the best of it — and the best of them do. Only the NBA can change it.
The NBA should at least listen to its greatest player.
I thought his comments were the most interesting and powerful comments in sports Monday. This is what he said (with the link):
“They’re there less than six months. 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 stepping stone 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.”
When Abdul-Jabbar speaks, it’s usually wise to listen. Full disclosure: One reason he is speaking these days is Abdul-Jabbar has written a book about his relationship with John Wooden, his coach at UCLA.
The book, “Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court,” was released today by Grand Central Publishing. It already ranks #1 in the basketball coaching category at amazon.com.
Truth be told, for the longest time, Abdul-Jabbar chose to avoid the spotlight. Cameras and notepads chased him early in his high school career at Power Memorial High School in New York City. An introvert, he balked at much of the attention.
They followed him to Los Angeles, where he won three NCAA titles at UCLA from 1967-69 (the first and last here in Freedom Hall, pictured on the cover of the book). They chased him through 20 more seasons in the NBA until he retired in 1989 after winning six NBA titles and scoring more than 38,000 points.
Abdul-Jabbar is 70. His comments came after he was asked about Lonzo Ball, the former UCLA freshman point guard who is expected to be taken in the first three selections in the NBA Draft next month.
He was also asked about Wooden, the coach who occasionally made him bristle but became a close friend after Abdul-Jabbar retired from basketball. Wooden won 10 national titles from 1964-1975, the most dominant stretch in college basketball history.
Abdul-Jabbar was asked how Wooden would have fared in today’s college basketball environment.
“He wouldn’t have been able to do it now,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “It’s a totally different circumstance now. Kids aren’t going to college to get an education and play ball. It’s one or the other.”
Abdul-Jabbar also gave credit to Wooden for teaching him about more than the high-post offense.
“I hope that they get an understanding of the man, what he was all about and what he gave us in terms of an understanding of how to be good citizens, good husbands, good fathers,” Abdul-Jabbar said.
“That was really what he was all about. He used basketball just as a metaphor to teach us about life and he did a great job.”
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