On October 18th in 1969, Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) made his NBA debut for the Milwaukee Bucks. He finished with game-high tallies of 29 points and 12 rebounds while also dishing out six assists in a 119-110 home win against the Detroit Pistons - arguably one of the statistically greatest debuts ever.
It was the start of a 20-year career which, at the time of his retirement in 1989, would be a record for the most seasons played in the NBA. It was later broken by five other players - Robert Parish (1976-1997), Kevin Willis (1984-2007), Kevin Garnett (1995-2016), Dirk Nowitzki (1998-2019), and Vince Carter (1998-2020).
MORE: Lookback at NBA debuts of notable legends
Abdul-Jabbar would dominate two decades of the NBA. In the 1970s, it was his individual brilliance - winning all six of his regular-season MVPs in the span of a decade from 1971-1980. During the early years, in Milwaukee, he did lead the franchise to what is still its lone NBA title in 1971, earning one of his two Finals MVP awards for that run.
A few years later, the Los Angeles Lakers acquired the 7'2" center and reserve center Walt Wesley from the Bucks in exchange for center Elmore Smith, forward David Meyers, guard Brian Winters and swingman Junior Bridgeman. In the 1980s, it was the team success. Partnering with another all-time talent in Magic Johnson, he played a huge role in the Lakers winning five championships in nine trips to the NBA Finals.
With a stacked resume consisting of numerous records and accolades (19 All-Star selections, 15 All-NBA selections, 11, All-Defensive selections, Rookie of the Year, two NBA scoring champion, 1976 rebounding champion, four-time NBA blocks leader), Abdul-Jabbar most certainly deserves his place in the discussion for the game's greatest.
Creator and owner of arguably one of the most unstoppable moves in the NBA history - the skyhook - Abdul-Jabbar sits at the top of the all-time regular-season scoring charts with 38,387 points. He also ranks third in rebounds (17440) and blocks (3189).
He has also been an activist through his writing and public stances on social justice. In 2012, he was named the US' Cultural Ambassador and a few years later in 2016, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom - the nation's highest civilian honor.
Other notable events in NBA history
- In 2017, the trio of Bam Adebayo (14th pick overall, 2017 Draft), Donovan Mitchell (13th pick overall, 2017 Draft), and Ben Simmons (1st pick overall, 2016 Draft) made their NBA debuts for the Miami Heat, Utah Jazz, and the Philadelphia 76ers respectively.
- In 1974, the late Nate Thurmond recorded the NBA's first-ever quadruple-double. He finished with 22 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists, and 12 blocks in a 120-115 win for the Chicago Bulls against the Atlanta Hawks.
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