The first memoir for young readers by sports legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
At one time, Lew Alcindor was just another kid from New York City with all the usual problems: He struggled with fitting in, with pleasing a strict father, and with overcoming shyness that made him feel socially awkward. But with a talent for basketball, and an unmatched team of supporters, Lew Alcindor was able to transform and to become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
From a childhood made difficult by racism and prejudice to a record-smashing career on the basketball court as an adult, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s life was packed with “coaches” who taught him right from wrong and led him on the path to greatness. His parents, coaches Jack Donahue and John Wooden, Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, and many others played important roles in Abdul-Jabbar’s life and sparked him to become an activist for social change and advancement. The inspiration from those around him, and his drive to find his own path in life, are highlighted in this personal and awe-inspiriting journey.
Written especially for young readers, Becoming Kareem chronicles how Kareem Abdul-Jabbar become the icon and legend he is today, both on and off the court.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Racial taunts
Booklist starred (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is nearing 70, and from that vantage, he writes, he is able to see the big picture, which is comprised of the many details, observations, and revelations that comprise this autobiography. It begins with a name. Abdul-Jabbar was born Lewis Alcindor. It wasn’t until he was a 24-year-old student of Islam that he assumed the name the world knows, which signaled who he wanted to be—and is the substance of this fine, thoughtful memoir. More than a play-by-play sports story, it’s an honest, powerful exposition of what it means to be black in white America, offering a de facto history of the civil rights movement. But it’s also a celebration of education and the teachers who helped him become Kareem; teachers like his UCLA mentor Coach John Wooden; Dr. John Henrik Clarke of the Harlem Youth Action Project, who Abdul-Jabbar says was crucial to him in “understanding my path; sports legends Wilt Chamberlain and Muhammad Ali; and others. Most of all, this is a coming-of-age story that focuses entirely on Abdul-Jabbar’s childhood and young adulthood and demonstrates how this foundation would lead to his becoming one of the most successful and famous basketball players of all time. An inspiring and very human story.
Kirkus Reviews starred (November 1, 2017)
One of the greatest basketball players of all time reminisces on the lessons that pushed him into a life of personal reinvention.In our current moment when black athletes are joining the national confrontation with the nation’s overwhelming legacy of racial injustice, few are better suited to provide context than Abdul-Jabbar. At 24, the newly minted NBA Finals MVP publicly embraced his conversion to Islam by renaming himself, choosing to become the person he wanted to be. The reactions stretched from confusion to outrage and betrayal. For this Harlem native, the influence of the massive 1960s civil rights and ’70s Black Power movements and the examples set by Dr. Martin Luther King, historian John Henrik Clarke, Malcolm X, and Muhammad Ali had a lasting influence on the superstar and scholar. Abdul-Jabbar recalls them and more, including most significantly coach John Wooden of UCLA, where Abdul-Jabbar and the Bruins accumulated an awe-inspiring 88-2 record. Wooden’s lessons would extend well beyond the basketball court. Abdul-Jabbar lets his many other, worldly accomplishments sit in the background, choosing to focus on the long road of self-discovery, which included many blemishes, mistakes, and struggles. Wrestling with what it means to be black, determining his own responsibility and capacity to respond to injustice, and becoming the “kindest, gentlest, smartest, lovingest, version” of himself takes center stage in this retelling of the early part of his life. Like the author’s unstoppable sky hook, this timely book is a clear score. (Memoir. 10-16)
About the Author
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and a Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. Since retiring, he has been an actor, a basketball coach, and the author of many New York Times bestsellers. Abdul-Jabbar is also a columnist for many news outlets, such as The Guardian and The Hollywood Reporter, writing on a wide range of subjects including race, politics, age, and pop culture. In 2012, he was selected as a U.S. Cultural Ambassador and in 2016 Abdul-Jabbar was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award which recognizes exceptional meritorious service.
He lives in Southern California. His website is kareemabduljabbar.com
Around the Web
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