By Ethan Duran
Last Friday night, basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar arrived at the Marcus Theater of the Performing Arts to speak to over 100 Milwaukee residents in his interview about “Becoming Kareem”, which is based on the NYTimes Best-Selling Book, according to a press release.
Abdul-Jabbar sat down with Bill Michaels on stage and talked about growing up in New York, his basketball legacy and life after basketball. Before the show, Abdul-Jabbar stepped onto the red carpet in a Q&A session with journalists and lucky fans.
The former athlete was greeted by an onslaught of camera flashes and questions from reporters. Towering over everyone else, Abdul-Jabbar bared his winning smile to everyone as TV cameras focused on him. After photos, anchors from TMJ-4 and WISN 12 interviewed Abdul-Jabbar about social justice issues like Colin Kaepernick’s support from Nike and the Sterling Brown case.
Despite the heavy topics, the crowd managed to keep its sense of humor. When the photo opportunity was over, someone asked, “When’s dinner?” Abdul-Jabbar said, “That will be later.”
On the other side of the TV cameras stood a group of student athletes from South Milwaukee High School’s basketball team. They were brought there by their coach and friend Dr. Gerry Patterson. Patterson said that he was one of Abdul-Jabbar’s old buddies and that he wanted to take the students to meet him. After meeting Abdul-Jabbar, the players got to stand with him and take a picture together.
Milwaukee is a place that Abdul-Jabbar often revisits, ever since he joined the Bucks in 1969. He has already visited several times this year, including at the Fiserv Forum’s opening this August. “I have a relationship with this city,” Abdul-Jabbar said, “I’ve come to understand it and it understands me. It’s shown me kindness.”
During breaks in the show, Abdul-Jabbar signed a baseball and basketball, tossing both into the crowd. Merchandise was also on sale, including t-shirts, jerseys and signed basketballs. People were still excited about his legacy as they chanted, “Skyhook, skyhook, skyhook!” As Kareem tossed the balls into the middle rows.
Media members each received signed copies of Abdul-Jabbar’s memoir, Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court. The story started in Harlem, where Abdul-Jabbar recalls listening to jazz music, his parents and discovering basketball.
Towards the end of his book, Abdul-Jabbar writes about the first time he planned to move into Milwaukee. His interest in Milwaukee was huge even in 1969, and it’s evident
that he is still fascinated by the city today.
“Milwaukee is in a Renaissance right now,” he said. “I want to see the city build on that.”