The Milwaukee Bucks are NBA champions for the first time since 1971. During the final series, three players from that first championship team showed up to cheer on the current squad: John McGlocklin, Oscar Robertson, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. As announcers pointed out, when the Bucks last prevailed Abdul-Jabbar was known as Lew Alcindor. That recalls a backstory fans may not know, with application to all Americans in 2021 and beyond.
As the New York Times noted, the former Lewis Alcindor is “the best‐known Hanafi,” a member of the sect led by Hamaas Abdul-Khaalis, formerly known as Ernest Timothy McGhee. He charged that the teachings of Elijah Muhammed were false and referred to the Black Muslim leader by his original name of Elijah Poole.
Abdul-Jabbar donated the $78,000 Washington, D.C. mansion that had once served as Hanafi headquarters and had been attacked in early 1973. The seven victims of that attack included five children, four of whom, ages nine days to 11 years, were drowned in a bathtub. Another child and two young men were shot to death. Six of the seven victims were family members of Abdul-Khaalis, who was not present. His wife Bibi and daughter Almina said the crimes were retaliation for their father’s campaign against Elijah Muhammad. No harm came to Hanafi benefactor Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, at least at the time.
He played six seasons for the Milwaukee Bucks and was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1975. In March of 1977, Abdul-Khaalis led a raid on the B’nai B’rith headquarters, the Islamic Center, and Washington, D.C. city hall. “They killed my babies and shot my women,” Khaalis yelled at B’nai B’rith headquarters. “Now they listen to us, or heads will roll.” The Hanafis told the captives it was a lie that Hitler killed six million Jews, and at one point, Abdul-Khaalis said “I don’t want to speak to any Jew bastards.” For an extensive account see Newsweek’s, “Muslim Terrorists Took 134 Hostages in the Name of Allah in a 1977 Guerrilla Raid.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar kept his distance and continued his career with the Lakers, winning championships in 1980 and 1982. The following year, fire destroyed Abdul-Jabbar’s Bel-Air mansion. Kareem was not present, and his girlfriend and son Amir escaped through a window.
Faulty wiring supposedly was to blame but as one report recalled, “ironically, it was 10 years ago, in January of 1973, that seven persons, including five children ranging in age from nine days to 11 years, were murdered in a Washington, D.C. home that Abdul-Jabbar had purchased for them.” So people had cause to wonder.
In 1989, at the age of 42, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar retired and took up a career as a writer. Among other books, the NBA great authored Giant Steps in 1990 and Brothers in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, WWII’s Forgotten Heroes in 2004. In 2015 in Al Jazeera, the author explained “Why I Converted to Islam.” More recently he has become concerned about the rise in anti-Semitism in America.
“Where Is the Outrage Over Anti-Semitism in Sports and Hollywood?” ran the headline on Abdul-Jabbar’s July 14, 2020 article in the Hollywood Reporter. “Recent incidents of anti-Semitic tweets and posts from sports and entertainment celebrities are a very troubling omen for the future of the Black Lives Matter movement,” according to Abdul-Jabbar, “but so too is the shocking lack of massive indignation.” The NBA great targeted Ice Cube’s tweets that “implied that Jews were responsible for the oppression of blacks.”
NFL player DeSean Jackson tweeted “several anti-Semitic messages, including a quote he incorrectly thought was from Hitler (not your go-to guy for why-can’t-we-all-get-along quotes) stating that Jews had a plan to ‘extort America’ and achieve ‘world domination.’” Such statements, Abdul-Jabbar explained, “would be laughed at by anyone with a middle-school grasp of reason,” but there was more.
Former NBA player and “self-proclaimed activist” Stephen Jackson “undid whatever progress his previous advocacy may have achieved by agreeing with DeSean Jackson on social media. Then he went on to talk about the Rothschilds owning all the banks and his support for the notorious homophobe and anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan.”
As Abdul-Jabbar closed out, “If we’re going to be outraged by injustice, let’s be outraged by injustice against anyone.” In other words, all lives matter─a belief that is now something of a thoughtcrime.
“One world does not have to mean one religion,” Abdul-Jabbar concluded, “just one belief in living in peace.” The celebrities he accused of anti-Semitism aren’t exactly at peace with the towering NBA great. As Ice Cube tweeted, “Shame on the Hollywood Reporter who obviously gave my brother Kareem 30 pieces of silver to cut us down without even a phone call.” Unfazed, Abdul-Jabbar stands tall against anti-Semitism and does not hesitate to support the team he led to the NBA championship as Lew Alcindor.
The current Bucks leader is finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who showed he is more than a king-sized Russell Westbrook, able to drive to the basket with ease. With his block on Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns, Giannis showed he can play defense. Still, there may be room for more improvement.
The Bucks might bring in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to show Giannis his unblockable “skyhook” that helped ring up championships for the Lakers. Also, bring in Kevin McHale to teach Giannis those low-post moves that helped the Celtics win titles. With those moves under Giannis’ command, the Bucks would boost their chances to repeat.