Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Told Us Why He's Auctioning Off His Basketball Memorabilia

File: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar goes up for a skyhook, as James Donaldson of the Dallas Mavericks tries to block him, during the NBA playoffs at the Forum in Inglewood on May 23, 1988. The Lakers won 113-98. (Reed Saxon/AP)

Before Kareem Abdul-Jabbar joined the writers room for film noir show Veronica Mars, he was, in fact, a legendary basketball player — remember? But now he's auctioning off the memorabilia from that part of his life, with a significant portion of the proceeds going to charity.

The treasure trove of more than 400 items includes game-won and game-worn items from throughout his 20-year career. He's used some of the wealth he's accumulated as a celebrity to collect items that fascinate him, and now he wants to give collectors and fans who buy these items a bit of what he gets from his own unique collections.

"I hope people get the same feeling that I get when I collect American West memorabilia or Eastern rugs, a sense of experiencing and belonging to a unique time in history when something spectacular happened," Abdul-Jabbar told LAist via email, echoing what he wrote in a blog post.

Some of the items being auctioned off by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. (Courtesy Goldin Auctions)

Parting with these possessions hasn't been completely easy — Abdul-Jabbar said that the hardest item to part with was a painting by artist LeRoy Neiman that shows him in the middle of performing his legendary "skyhook" shot.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds a painting of himself by artist LeRoy Neiman. (Courtesy Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)

"I love the painting itself because the geometric shapes of bright colors behind me give the impression of motion, yet the actual painting of me looks so calm and focused on the shot as if the ball going in wasn't even in question," Abdul-Jabbar said. "What gives it special sentimental value is the fact that it was a gift from the Lakers when I broke Wilt Chamberlain's overall scoring record in 1984."

Every member of the team signed it.

Another of his most valued items being sold is a piece of parquet floor from the Boston Garden, home of the Celtics.

"The Celtics and the Lakers had one of the greatest rivalries in sports, and having that piece of flooring is a reminder that the Lakers were the only team, other than the Celtics, to win a World Championship at the Boston Garden," Abdul-Jabbar said.

His favorite memory from the items being sold was the Naismith College Player of the Year Trophy, created by the inventor of basketball himself, Dr. James Naismith. Abdul-Jabbar was the first to receive it, back in 1969.

"There is something exhilarating about being the first one, because it feels like you're not just a player in the sport, but a pioneer of new traditions," Abdul-Jabbar said.

He also wants to pay it forward through philanthrophy, using the proceeds to support what he believes in. A large portion will be going to his charity, the Skyhook Foundation, which sends kids from economically challenged schools to camp.

"I donate to a variety of charities and social action groups that share the goals of providing more opportunities for marginalized kids and promoting social justice for everyone," Abdul-Jabbar said.

One of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's collectibles being auctioned off by Goldin Auctions, from his days at UCLA. (Courtesy Goldin Auctions)

He's more attached to that work than to his championship rings and trophies. He wrote in his blog post, "Looking back on what I have done with my life, instead of gazing at the sparkle of jewels or gold plating celebrating something I did a long time ago, I'd rather look into the delighted face of a child holding their first caterpillar and think about what I might be doing for their future."

Beyond his auction and being a new TV writer, another item on his plate is getting people politically engaged.

"This midterm election is the most significant in modern history, because it's all about how America will define itself for the coming years," Abdul-Jabbar said. "Will we stand for the principles the Founding Fathers expressed in the Constitution, or will we support those who deliberately mislead the public, stoke fear, and openly express bigotry? Voter registration is the focus of that moral divide."

He also criticized Republicans, saying that they are restricting voting access for minorities and the poor.

"If Thomas Jefferson saw the underhanded efforts to keep voters away, he would be shocked that they are allowed to call themselves Americans," he said.

Abdul-Jabbar is finding hope in at least one area: the Lakers. He said that he believes LeBron James joining will add a lot to the team — and he thinks they'll at least make the playoffs.

"They will be more focused because they have such a dynamic and talented leader, which means they should play a lot better as a team," Abdul-Jabbar said. "In any event, the games will be exciting and the fans will have plenty to cheer about."

So go vote, cheer, and bid — the auction closes Saturday, Oct. 27.


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