My Time With Kareem Abdul Jabbar

Bill Michaels
September 09, 2018 - 4:09 pm

He’s not a gentle giant, he’s an intellectual, deep thinking, athlete.  He’s a scholar, a cancer survivor, a lover of jazz, a wannabe musician, a believer in a social conscience and, now, a friend.

When I was in 6th grade, I was approaching 6’5’’.  I, and my dad, believed that I would still keep growing and had the possibility to end up in the NBA some day.
“Sky hook”, my dad used to yell at me, “Just like Kareem”.

I worked and worked and worked on that particular move and could never quite get it, but it did come in handy, at times, throughout my young career.

Needless to say, I grew about an inch more as I progressed into adulthood and my dreams of being the second coming of Kareem Abdul Jabbar were dashed.

I watched Kareem work his long, lanky body up and down the court for years.  I watched players try to push him around and I watched him fight back over and over and over….in his own, “I just scored on you and we won the game” kind of way.

Fast forward to August of 2018.  I get a phone call and on the other end a woman introduces herself as the producer and agent for a stage show that’s coming to Milwaukee called Becoming Kareem.

As I listen to the woman, named Deborah, I figured that she was looking for publicity and wanted an interview on my program….or something like that.  Imagine my surprise when she said, “Kareem and I studied the market and found that you’re the most respected and well-known sports broadcast in the area and Kareem would like to work with you”. 

“Hello”

“Hello”

I had to speak and say, “I’m still here”. 

I was dumbfounded.  To have one of my childhood idols suddenly want to work with me….well….to say it was a dream come true would be a vast understatement.

When I walked into rehearsal, this figure stood up wearing a UCLA Bruins warm-up, the biggest warm-up I had ever seen in my life. 

“Hi, I’m Kareem”, he said to me.

“I’m Bill Michaels”, I uttered and before I could get out my next words, he said to me, “Oh, I know who you are, I’m glad you found the time to work with me”.

Over the next 48 hours, I get to know a man I had never known.  A deeper understanding of what a hero should be.  Someone who stands on what’s right and knows when to fight back and knows when to make a difference.  I discovered a man who loves the escape of life thru music and magic of movies.  I grew to respect the player who took criticism and used it as motivation to look in to the mirror, honestly, and then work on the areas of weakness.  I found a childlike quality which reverted to childhood. I enjoyed the experience that comes with a spectacular life and I became friends with a man who wanted to be friends with me.
I could write for hours about my experience with Kareem Abdul Jabbar but it wouldn’t do it justice. 

I hope someday, you get to meet the man for yourself. 

He’s all that….and more.