NBA legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar standing in front of his recently unveiled bronze statue outside the Staples Center.
The towering 16-foot bald-headed likeness of Big 33 displayed his iconic sky hook and sported his signature goggles and the double wristbands he always wore. The Lakers also prominently positioned Kareem's bronze likeness outside the team's home court for future generations of Purple and Gold fans to admire.
The replica of Kareem honors the Hall of Fame center's incredible NBA accomplishments and post-career contributions as special assistant to the Laker organization.
Kareem's 7'2" sculpture rises proudly next to statues honoring two other Laker basketball-playing greats, Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Jerry West, whose smiling likenesses flank the more serious, purposed look on Abdul-Jabbar's face.
Ironically, the Lakers organization graciously commissioned the Kareem statue and generously approved its final look. However, the Lakers could have responded far differently to Kareem's selfish, awkward, and at times, bitter rants against his former team for what he claimed was their failing to unveil a statue of him sooner.
In May 2001, Abdul-Jabbar jabbered to the Sporting News that the Lakers didn't care about him, and the NBA's all-time leading scorer even tweeted that he felt disrespected for not having a bronze replica of his own after leading the Lakers to five NBA titles.
Because of Abdul-Jabbar's well-documented, acrimonious relationship with the Lakers and their fans, Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss and his family should have commissioned a backwards facing Kareem alongside Johnson and West. Such a statue would have been both fitting and consistent with the always irritated Abdul-Jabbar's longstanding reputation of turning his back on the media and fans during his 20-year career in Los Angeles.
But, the Lakers chose not to.
Lakers management also should have, unlike the bronze replicas of Johnson and West, manufactured Abdul-Jabbar's statue out of papier-mache to reflect Abdul-Jabbar's brittle and easily ruffled feelings.
But, the Lakers turned the other cheek. The Lakers chose to stand much taller than the 7'2" Abdul-Jabbar.
The Lakers honored an incredible player whose recent attitude and behavior deserved a tiny green papier-mache replica instead of the towering 16-foot likeness of Kareem unveiled last night outside the Staples Center.
The Lakers handled this squeamish, uncomfortable situation with Abdul-Jabbar with the grace, aplomb and fluidity of the retired 65-year-old's legendary sky hook.