Becoming Kareem by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Becoming Kareem by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Author:Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published: 2017-11-21T05:00:00+00:00


Senior Year: We Gotta Get Out of This Place

My senior year was the part of a roller-coaster ride when you slowly—agonizingly slowly—climb the lift hill, hearing each link clack into place as you rise, eagerly anticipating reaching the top and swooshing straight down. The whole year was a boring repeat of the year before, with all my focus being on the sweet day when I would burst off to college, never to look back.

My social life that year mostly consisted of hanging with my small group of friends. We called ourselves the Colleagues, which we thought was cool and sophisticated, but it now sounds like a cross between a Harvard law club and a frat house folk-singing group. Our main activities were visiting jazz clubs and throwing parties.

Jazz had become the soundtrack to my life story. I used it to explore my emotions, to lift me up when I was down, to mellow me out when I was anxious. Some of the clubs we went to were the same ones that I had visited with Wilt, but now, without him and his spotlight, the clubs felt more personal and intimate. Without the attention, I could just enjoy the music. I listened to, and even met, some of the greatest jazz musicians in the world: Roland Kirk, Sonny Rollins, and Thelonious Monk. Soon I became so inspired that I began to take saxophone lessons.

The Colleagues didn’t just sit passively and listen to music; we rented spaces and threw large parties that drew a couple of hundred people. We provided the place, the records, and the punch, and charged only ninety-nine cents because anything a dollar up meant paying city taxes. Kids danced and socialized and let loose while we divvied up a few bucks of profit. We were the kings of the local underground social world.

My parents had loosened the reins slightly since I was doing so well academically and athletically, and I still attended Mass every Sunday, so they knew nothing of the Colleagues, the parties, or the nightly visits to jazz clubs. I was living a separate life from the polite Good Boy Lew that teachers and parents raved about.

The basketball season that year was déjà vu. We won. A lot. Seventy-one games in a row. In fact, we hadn’t lost a game since I was a freshman. Coach drove the team with even more intensity, though I did notice that he backed off me a little after our confrontation. He couldn’t help but notice my lackluster appearance at his basketball camp. Whatever relationship we had before was over.

After seventy-one victories, we found ourselves facing DeMatha again. The last time we’d played them was the day after Coach Donahue had called me a nigger—and we had beaten them with a fury. I had wondered that night if my teammates had played with extra ferocity as a show of support for me after what Coach had said. I would have been too embarrassed to ask them, but ever since that shattering night, we seemed to bond together much more, both on and off the court.


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