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Lakers will unveil statue of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during season

The Lakers plan to put up a statue of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA's all-time leading scorer who helped the Lakers to five championships, at some point in the 2012-13 season. Abdul-Jabbar criticized the team last year for not already having a statue.

August 28, 2012|By Mark Medina
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in action.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in action. (Reed Saxon / Associated…)

The Lakers plan to unveil a statue of Hall of Fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar outside Staples Center during the 2012-13 season, The Times has learned.

No date for unveiling the statue has been finalized.

Abdul-Jabbar, 65, played 14 seasons for the Lakers and retired in 1989. He remains the NBA's all-time leading scorer, won five of his six NBA titles and three of his six league MVP awards with the Lakers, and Abdul-Jabbar's mastery of his famed skyhook helped establish him as one of the best centers of all time.

The Lakers previously indicated they would unveil a statue of Abdul-Jabbar at some point. The team has already honored Magic Johnson, Chick Hearn and Jerry West with statues on Star Plaza at Staples Center.

Abdul-Jabbar publicly criticized the Lakers last year, saying the failure to erect a statue of him sooner was a show of disrespect. His contract as a special assistant coach ran out in 2011 and he voiced various complaints: He had been asked to take a pay cut, the Lakers had not awarded him playoff shares as a coach, and he cited his reduced role as a coach for Andrew Bynum from 2005 to 2009.

The Lakers have attributed Abdul-Jabbar's reduced pay and role to Bynum's belief that he didn't need as much personal instruction. Team officials also noted that they give autonomy to head coaches in hiring their assistants, and that players allocate playoff shares at their discretion.

The Lakers have also maintained there's no set criteria on determining the order of statue inductions. The others honored with statues also had celebrated careers with the team.

Johnson led the Lakers during the Showtime era in the 1980s and won five NBA championships, and until recently he had an ownership stake in the team.

Hearn was a Hall of Fame broadcaster with the Lakers and his catchy wordplay and storytelling helped popularize the game here from the 1960s till his death in 2002.

West finished as the Lakers' second all-time-leading scorer and led the team to its first title in Los Angeles in 1972, only to top that by winning six NBA championships as an executive. He left the Lakers in 2000.

AEG, which owns Staples Center, plays a larger role in determining who is honored with a statue at the venue; other athletes with statues include boxer Oscar De La Hoya and former Kings great Wayne Gretzky.

In an interview with The Times two years ago, Lakers Executive Vice President Jeanie Buss indicated that honoring Abdul-Jabbar next with a statue would be a "natural fit."

Said Buss: "Certainly Kareem stands among some of the greatest of all time."

sports@latimes.com

twitter.com/MarkGMedina

Medina is a Times correspondent.

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