Why Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says he gets jealous of Giannis Antetokounmpo
LOS ANGELES — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had a career that should have him in the GOAT conversation: six-time champion, six MVPs, 15-time All-NBA, two-time scoring champion, 11-time All-Defensive Team, and an iconic shot that — until just this week — helped him score the most points in the history of the game.
Yet Abudl-Jabbar said when he watches Giannis Antetokounmpo play, he gets a little jealous.
“I’d sort of like to do some of the things that he [does],” Abdul-Jabbar said, speaking a couple of days after his scoring record fell. “‘You get the rebound, you better not try and take it down to the other end of the court if you’re a frontline player’ — that was like gospel when I played. Giannis is going through all of that and opened the game up. So I’m happy he’s done that, but I’m annoyed that wasn’t in time for me to try to get in on the fun.”
Antetokounmpo said that he was lucky that his coaches always encouraged him to bring the ball up the court (which makes sense, it doesn’t take a highly trained basketball eye to see he’s an unstoppable force in transition). Then he marveled at the idea of Abdul-Jabbar in that role.
“Obviously, Kareem could bring the ball down the floor and create for himself, and get people go out of the way or ask for a pick and roll — he’d probably have 52,000 points. It would take LeBron eight more years to break that record,” Antetokounmpo said.
“I can’t imagine Kareem bringing it up. I’m sure he probably could, he did everything else,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said when asked about this evolution in the sport. “I don’t know when the evolution started, but certainly Giannis is just incredibly unique, I think, to this league right now.”
Abdul-Jabbar was on hand when LeBron James broke his all-time scoring record, part of an outpouring of appreciation for James that KAJ didn’t get when he passed Wilt Chamberlain (in a neutral site game in Las Vegas, Abdul-Jabbar noted, so half the crowd was Kings fans).