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Friday, February 3, 2012
Kareem: Back-to-basket centers gone

By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- Former Los Angeles Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who ranks No. 1 all-time in the NBA in scoring, No. 3 in rebounding and No. 3 in blocked shots, is certainly qualified to evaluate today's big men and the six-time MVP doesn't like what he sees.

"I don't think that that person exists anymore," Abdul-Jabbar told 710 ESPN's Mason & Ireland Show on Friday when asked if the lineage of back-to-the-basket pivot men has continued from the days when he played with the likes of Boston's Bill Russell and Portland's Bill Walton.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar laments that most centers in the NBA today don't like playing with their back to the basket.

"I think the appeal of the 3-point shot, just the crowd appeal and the old personal appeal -- the ego of making a 3-point shot -- has really made working your way into the paint and shooting a shot starting out with your back to the basket, there's not much appeal to that," Abdul-Jabbar said. "So many players now are entertainers in addition to being basketball players. That leads to a conflict."

Abdul-Jabbar also lamented the disappearance of his signature shot, the skyhook, from today's game.

"If you just take the time to figure out the fundamentals and work on it for a couple months and get it down, you have a shot that can't be blocked," Abdul-Jabbar said. "But [for] so many of the players, the whole idea of working your way down into the paint and setting yourself up with your back to the basket, it doesn't appeal to them so they don't do it."

Abdul-Jabbar, who turns 65 in April, was asked about his former charge Andrew Bynum, whom he coached in the early stages of the Lakers center's career when Abdul-Jabbar as a special assistant for the franchise.

"Andrew wanted to shoot jump shots more and he didn't want to use his left hand, so he kind of limited himself in that sense because shooting only with one hand and wanting to shoot more jump shots, it's easier to guard somebody if you know what they're going to do and [they are] being predictable," Abdul-Jabbar said. "Using your left hand makes you unpredictable. So, I think that that is one thing where he kind of limited himself."

Bynum, 24, has not worked with Abdul-Jabbar in years. This week he was named an All-Star for the first time in his seven-year career with averages of 16.5 points, 12.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game this season. Bynum will be the starting center for the Western Conference thanks to the fan vote.

Abdul-Jabbar said he doesn't watch enough games nowadays to judge who is the best among the league's current crop of centers, but did reserve praise for one player in particular.

"I know there's one guy that posts up in the same way that I used to," Abdul-Jabbar said. "He plays for Portland: LaMarcus Aldridge. He shoots a hook shot and he is a very effective player. He scores inside and turns around, goes out to 12 feet and shoots jumpers and is really able to do that."

Abdul-Jabbar, who was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in 2008 and reported his cancer to be at an "absolute minimum" last February, continues to thrive.

"My health is great," Abdul-Jabbar said. "My cancer is in remission and I'm doing all the things I need to do to stay healthy."

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.