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Classic Athlete: Lew Alcindor

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Rick Stewart/Allsport/Hulton Archive Getty Images

For basketball fans of a certain age, he is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and he will forever be associated with the Los Angeles Lakers and NBA World Basketball Championships.

But for those of us with a little, ah, age on our bones he’s something more.

He was Lew Alcindor and when he played College Basketball for the UCLA Bruins in the 1960’s, he was more than one great college basketball player.  Let’s see, how should we put this?

Dominant.  Overwhelming.  Jaw dropping.  A force never before (or since) seen in the game.

Well, that would be a start.

Did you know that because of Lew Alcindor they changed the rules of college basketball? It’s true.

You know how they celebrate the basketball dunk these days? During the college and NBA seasons, you turn on ESPN and the highlights are filled with spectacular dunks? Heck, they even have a slam dunk contest during the All-Star break.

Well, when Kareem (oops, I mean Lew!) was in college, they outlawed the dunk. That’s right, this guy was so unstoppable that they made the ‘dunk’ illegal. Maybe that would stop him!

No, Lew just developed his famous ‘sky hook’ and UCLA continued to roll.

I recall that one of the strategies to stop Lew and the Bruins was just hold the ball. They didn’t have a shot-clock in those days, so a team would just go to ‘four corners’ and hang onto the ball. The result? Well, instead of Lew and his teammates winning 120-38, they’d win 38-10. Yawn.

In the video below, check out this retrospective of the greatest college basketball player ever to lace up sneakers.  Yes…in ‘those days’ we called them sneakers.

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