Abdul-Jabbar on NCAAs, 'Splash,' coaching
April, 8, 2013
By Lynn Hoppes | ESPN.com
AP Photo/John AmisKareem Abdul-Jabbar and 3,000 children dribbled a mile on Sunday in Atlanta.What has gotten into basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?
On Sunday, Abdul-Jabbar and Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed led about 3,000 children on a 1-mile dribbling trek throughout downtown Sunday to promote healthy, active lifestyles.
Normally a private person, Abdul-Jabbar recently has appeared on "Sesame Street," several TV commercials and talk shows, and he is competing on ABC's diving show "Splash."
"I just think having a public profile is allowing people to understand who I am and what message I'm delivering," Abdul-Jabbar said. "I love helping young people get into fitness and deal with adversity. And I also think literacy is a big issue. Getting these opportunities, I'm down with that."
Playbook had a few minutes with Abdul-Jabbar to talk about the NCAA tournament, diving and his coaching aspirations.
What's it like being in Atlanta for the NCAA tournament?
"It's always nice to be in this environment. It brings back a lot of meaningful times in my life. I remember as a kid hoping to one day play in college. I never really dreamed I'd make it as a pro. It's always a pleasure and seeing these young athletes following in my footsteps."
Outside of basketball, what did you love about college at UCLA?
"I would say a whole lot of things. My high school didn't have a football team, and I always wanted to go to a game. At UCLA, in my freshman year, we won the Rose Bowl. That was really neat that I got a chance to see such a great event. Granted, who knew it would be a long time before they won the Rose Bowl again!"
You're doing so many things these days, a big departure for you. I know many years you were focusing on wanting to be a coach. Is that still a dream?
"Being a coach is on the shelf for me. I'm nearly 66 years old. I wouldn't fault anybody if someone cites age as a factor for not hiring me. I'm very healthy, and I know I can do it. But I'd get it why a team wouldn't hire me."
Speaking of healthy, what's it like on "Splash"?
"I'm having fun. I've gotten into great shape. Two to three weeks ago, I was walking by a mirror and I saw a six-pack. I haven't seen those guys in about 20 years. There is a lot of good with the show. I'm not doing well diving, but I'm having fun and learning."
Working with Powerade's NCAA youth outreach, you dribbled for a mile?
"It was only a mile. And they had ambulances on hand if I fell down."