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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's skyhook captured in bronze

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's skyhook captured in bronze

LOS ANGELES (AP) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's skyhook has been captured in bronze for future generations of basketball fans.

Staples Center unveiled a nearly 16-foot-tall statue of the top scorer in NBA history Friday night, immortalizing Jabbar's famed hook shot alongside statues of fellow Los Angeles Lakers greats Magic Johnson and Jerry West.

The 65-year-old Abdul-Jabbar pronounced himself humbled and grateful during a ceremony attended by numerous NBA greats ranging from Johnson and West to Pat Riley and Elgin Baylor - and even Lakers superfan Jack Nicholson.

``Having lived my life and had the experiences I've had, I can understand now what a man like Lou Gehrig means when he considers himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth,'' Abdul-Jabbar said.

Abdul-Jabbar is depicted in his signature goggles, wristbands and the standard 1980s short-shorts below his No. 33 jersey. The 7-foot-2 center pulled a braided cord to drop a curtain revealing the statue to hundreds of cheering fans, who gathered under threatening clouds for the ceremony.

``I'm glad we got here before the pigeons got to it,'' Abdul-Jabbar said with a smile.

By any measure, Abdul-Jabbar is among the most significant figures in basketball history. His 38,387 points are the most in NBA history, and he spent two decades in the league with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Lakers, winning a record six MVP awards while setting records at the time for games played, total minutes, field goals, blocked shots, defensive rebounds and fouls.

The former Lew Alcindor arrived at UCLA in 1965 from his native New York City's Power Memorial High School. He won three NCAA titles with coach John Wooden, who received special mention while Abdul-Jabbar thanked the biggest figures in his basketball life.

``You never understand how important these people are until they're not with you,'' Abdul-Jabbar said. ``With coach Wooden, I understood immediately.''

The No. 1 pick in the 1969 draft won an NBA title with Oscar Robertson and the Bucks, who traded him to Los Angeles in 1975. The Lakers didn't break through until Johnson arrived in 1979, immediately teaming up for the first of five championships in nine seasons with the advent of Showtime.

``Thank you for taking us on a ride with you,'' Johnson said. ``It was all because of your great leadership.''

Riley recalled his first conversation with Abdul-Jabbar after he became the Lakers' coach.

``He said, `Pat, you won't have to worry about me,''' Riley said. ``He was great, and he has been there for us his whole career. He was our protector, and he was the one who carried us.''

Abdul-Jabbar did much of his scoring with the famed shot depicted in his statue - including the basket with which he passed Wilt Chamberlain to become the NBA's career scoring leader on April 5, 1984, in Las Vegas. Former Milwaukee radio play-by-play announcer Eddie Doucette attended the statue unveiling and recounted the night he coined the term ``skyhook'' while Abdul-Jabbar played for the Bucks.

Abdul-Jabbar also received praise from several speakers for his humanitarian work and dedication to education in his post-basketball life. He also has written books and worked on documentary films.

And though the Lakers insist there are no hard feelings with their sometimes-prickly ex-superstar, Abdul-Jabbar ruefully recalled a minor ruckus he started a few years ago by complaining that Johnson and West had been honored with Staples Center statues before him.

``I had a little too much to say about it not happening right away,'' Abdul-Jabbar said. ``But they were patient with me.''

Julius Erving, Bill Walton, Bill Sharman, Jamaal Wilkes, Kurt Rambis, A.C. Green and James Worthy also attended the ceremony. NBA Commissioner David Stern, former President Bill Clinton and Abdul-Jabbar's son, Amir, sent congratulatory videos.

``Kareem was the most selfless super player that I've ever seen in my life,'' West said.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

It's almost here.

After a lengthy break between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are set to meet on Monday for Game 1.

Who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir give their keys to the series and their predictions for the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, JJ speaks with several member from the local media to get their insights and predictions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Need to Know: A look at the Redskins' key 2019 free agents

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Need to Know: A look at the Redskins' key 2019 free agents

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 27, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Here is my sunrise view from this morning:

Looking at next year’s free agents

This post was originally published on March 18. 

There is still work that the Redskins can do in free agency and they still have some of their own players they want to retain. But with a lot of the player movement already in the books, we can take a look forward some of the key Redskin who currently are set to be free agents when the 2019 league year opens. 

QB Colt McCoy (Week 1 age 32)—Lots of questions here. Will the Redskins want to keep him around for another year as Alex Smith’s backup? Or will they want a younger and cheaper backup? Will McCoy want to move on rather than back up another QB who doesn’t miss many games?

OL Ty Nsekhe (32)—The Redskins gave him a second-round restricted free agent tender this year so it’s possible that he could be gone or on a long-term contract in Washington. If he is a free agent, his value and the difficulty of retaining him could depend on if he ends the season as a reserve tackle (easy) or as a starting guard (hard). 

OLB Preston Smith (25)—As we saw with Trent Murphy (three years, $21 million with up to $30 million), pass rushers get paid. Smith also makes big plays. Since Smith came into the NFL, he is the only player with at least 20 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles. If the Redskins can’t reach a deal on an extension with him this year the franchise tag is a distinct possibility. 

WR Jamison Crowder (25)—This year the supply of quality receivers both as free agents and in the draft sent contract prices skyrocketing. To guard against that happening next year, the Redskin should start talking to Crowder about an extension soon. 

ILB Zach Vigil (27)—As I noted here, Vigil went from being cut in September to a very valuable reserve in November. Both Zach Brown and Mason Foster will still be under contract, but the Redskin still should make an effort to retain Vigil for special teams and as a capable backup. 

Other Redskins who are slated to be UFA’s next year are DL Ziggy Hood and ILB Martrell Spaight. 

It’s also worth noting that WR Maurice Harris and DE Anthony Lanier will both be restricted free agents next year. Both positions were pricey in free agency this year, so both could require at least second-round tenders, which likely will increase to about $3 million in 2019. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler