To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyzes reviews to verify trustworthiness.
The first heads-up… I’d like to give potential readers is… this book is listed on Amazon… as being for ages 10-13… well… I’m a Grandfather… and just a couple of years younger than Kareem (formerly known as Lew Alcindor)… and I not only loved the book… but it certainly never came across to me in any way that I was being talked down to like a 10-13 year-old child.
About twenty-seven years ago I read Kareem’s autobiography… and have also read his book about coaching at an Apache Reservation… and this book is totally unique… in the way Kareem talks to the audience about how he truly became himself… himself being Kareem… who the author goes through very “smooth”… pain taking steps… to share… how he… somewhat unknowingly… learned who he truly wanted to become. One of the things… that makes this book so poignant… is that despite being (in my opinion) the greatest college basketball player of all-time… and one of the top ten NBA players of all-time… this heart-sharing-soul-sharing… story… is really not centered on basketball… though basketball is everywhere… but not the (excuse the Kareem-basketball-sized-pun) center of the story. The former Lew Alcindor… who after a (then) lifetime of not feeling totally at ease in his own skin… he slowly but unrelentingly… changed his life… and of utmost importance… though very sad and hurtful to his parents… eventually changed his name… as part of his spiritual… and religious quest.
Since I was only a couple of years younger than the author… and basketball was my life also… I followed Lew’s career. (his name till he announced his change in the pro’s) I knew of Alcindor and his exploits and followed him since his days at Power Memorial High in New York. Having been born in New York myself… and then moving to Los Angeles as a child the same year as my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers… as I excelled in basketball… my dream was to play college ball for St. Johns… and that was one of the four colleges Alcindor narrowed his choices down to before picking UCLA. (Interestingly… growing up… Lew’s favorite sport was baseball… even though he was SIX-FOOT-TEN-INCHES-TALL when he was FOURTEEN-YEARS-OLD.) With all of Lew’s and Kareem’s record setting… and countless victories… and championships… the things that seemed to form his ultimate creation of “Kareem”… surprisingly… was all the deceptions of friendship… the (according to the author) “tone-deafness” to real world issues by his parents… teachers… and everyday figures. I was really surprised at the aloofness that he attaches to his Father… because the only real memories I had from my following the author was when Pat Riley famously let Kareem’s father get on the Laker team bus… the game after the famous Celtic Memorial Day Massacre… of the Lakers. It was always portrayed in my mind as a really close father-son-relationship.
The true core of Kareem’s story… are the people that he considered “coaches” in his life of educational… religious… spiritual… day in… day out growth. Sadly… but part of the growth process… are the people Alcindor let inside his defenses… that then let him down and hurt him in ways… someone on the outside couldn’t. His high school coach Jack Donahue… who Lew really respected… until ONE AWFUL MOMENT… when Donahue threw out a racial slur… in front of the whole team… after a bad half of basketball. I literally got a tear in my eyes… and my heart dropped… just reading this… I of course could imagine the awful impact on young Lew… and it scarred him for decades… until Coach Wooden intervened. And there was also a sad moment with Coach Wooden… when he was by Lew’s side… and a grandmotherly type passerby… threw out a racial slur… that Wooden didn’t respond to… as Lew would have hoped.
As I look back on my life… I remember… not always agreeing with some of the public stands that Lew Alcindor took… but I always respected the way he carried himself… and vocalized his beliefs. After reading this book… whether I totally agree or not… has been put aside… because this book succeeded… I believe in accomplishing what Kareem wanted… he explained how he internally became who he was… to form these opinions.
My basketball dreams were put on the shelf when I proudly served and became an Honorably Discharged Viet Nam era veteran… where… like the racism Lew faced… I faced more anti-Semitism than I ever did in my entire life… but before I went in Lew affected my life in a negative way… he was so unstoppable in his college basketball career… that the NCAA passed the ABSOLUTE-WORST-RULE-CHANGE-IN-THE-HISTORY-OF-SPORTS… they outlawed the dunk! I was a top scoring six-foot-two-inch white guy… who could slam dunk… high school player in Los Angeles… and high school adopted the same stupid rule. In warm ups before our league opener… I dunked and hung on the rim… and my coach sat me out the first quarter… even though I was the eleventh highest scorer in the City of Los Angeles. But Kareem more than made up for it… when he came to my hometown Los Angeles Lakers… and helped lead them to five NBA championships in a ten-year period. His sky-hook… remains to this day… as the most unstoppable shot in basketball history. With that being said… to summarize this book… rather than saying it was an intimate “slam-dunk”… I’ll give it an even higher rating… I’ll give it an intimate “sky-hook” rating!
Personal Note to Kareem: I also read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” in 1966… and still have the book… sitting right here on my shelf by my desk… over fifty-years later. My favorite part that I have been quoting to many people since I was seventeen-years-old… was after he returned from Mecca… Malcolm stated…
“I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept in the same bed—while praying to the same God—with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of the blue, whose hair was the blondest of the blond, and whose skin was the whitest of the white…we were truly all the same.”
Personal Note 2 to Kareem: It was wonderful… after all these years… to see you write about the positive impact that Wilt Chamberlain’s kindness had on your life.
I purchased this book, unaware that it was written for younger people. Even though this is the case, the book is very well-written and an easy read for any adult. I never felt that Kareem spoke down to the reader based on age and actually touched on topics that are usually reserved for adults. I think this is a great read for anyone, regardless of age.
My 14 yr old son is a basketball fanatic. The fact that he read this entire book deserve 5 stas. The book made such an impact He wanted to talk to me about the book and would like for me to read it. He says it was interesting to read about his journey not just in Basketball but his entire life.
I could not put this book down - finished it in one day. I especially enjoyed the insights into Kareem's journalism work in Harlem, the Cleveland Summit, and his relationship with Coach Wooden. A handful of years younger than Kareem, I found myself reliving the assassination years, the beautiful courage of Muhammed Ali, the struggle to balance the forces of good with the rejection of evil, and the disciplined discovery of self through history and study and hard work. I am inspired by the power of Kareem's experience of these things all the while living and competing in the public eye. I feel better and stronger for having read this book.
Purchased as a gift for a friend who loves autobiographies. She had specifically mentioned Kareen A-J was on her list so I bought it for her plane ride to Hawaii a few weeks ago. She loved it. She finished it before arriving back in SLC