As I have alluded to many times on this blog, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is my main man, my second hero behind my dad, and I am in absolute awe of his accomplishments on and off the basketball court. When I found out via his publicist Deborah Morales (yeah I'm name dropping someone you've never heard of) two years ago that Kareem would have an HBO documentary based on his life, I nearly begged her and HBO to either a) let me be involved or b) let me get an advance screening. They only obliged on the latter, and but that was still enough to assuage the angst of not being more involved. That being said...
The documentary, which I highly suggest you watch two times if you have not already, was a supreme disappointment to me. Most of what was covered in the documentary was already covered in great detail in his autobiography Giant Steps, which came out in 1983. Yes there were interviews from Billy Crystal, Bob Ryan, his longtime friends, Herbie Hancock and even the great Quincy Jones, but they were merely pontificating on details I already knew about.
In fact the only detail that was discussed in the documentary that I was previously in the dark about was regarding his scratched cornea in the great Game-of-the-Century matchup against Elvin Hayes in 1968. I always thought Kareem was simply outplayed, but his eye hampered him, and he later avenged that loss in the NCAA tournament. Hearing that made me smile and re-affirm Kareem's greatness, but it was not enough pacify me. Not even close.
I called my father the next day to get his take on the documentary, and before I could bait him with a question, he also had complaints about the regurgitation of common Kareem knowledge. We both did a little pontification of our own about the omission of what makes Kareem unique--his post-basketball career. Kareem has written history books, children's books, he's written reviews on jazz and movies, he's had columns with Time and ESPN magazine, he's started a foundation, he's been very vocal about his fight with leukemia, and as recently as two months ago he had a public spat with Presidential candidate, Donald Trump. Yes Kareem was a great ball player (I'd argue one of the five greatest ever to play the game) and that should be celebrated but a documentary (in my opinion) should be a little more thorough, and appeal to a broader audience--not just basketball fans. HBO is known for their sprawling documentaries, but they fell short this time. Perhaps I need to start begging folks to let me do the sequel.
I highly suggest you go on over to my main man Sabin's blog, and read the series of entries he wrote on OutKast (pronounced OutKast). He nailed it.