Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history, but he never won a championship. He would have been eligible for an ABA contract until 1976, when a mistake by another player allowed him to sign with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is an NBA legend. He has won 6 NBA championships, 4 MVP awards, 3 Finals MVP awards, and is the all-time leading scorer in NBA history. Read more in detail here: how old is kareem abdul-jabbar.
There were no shots in one of the most important contests in professional basketball history in 1969. There were no raucous crowds or packed stadiums. Instead, the battleground was a hotel room in New York. The American Basketball Association had just finished its second season and was in financial trouble. Franchises were bouncing about like Tigger on energy drinks throughout the countryside. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the most important college prospect in a generation, was the subject of a battle between the NBA and the ABA, with each side getting just one swing.
Before converting to Islam, Abdul-Jabbar was known as Lew Alcindor and led UCLA to an 88–2 record and three consecutive national titles. In the 1969 NBA drafts, he was the top prospect, a player who could either extend the NBA’s dominance or put the nascent ABA on the map. The stakes were massive.
The ABA devised a strategy to get Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Former Indiana Pacers general manager Mike Storen was among the executives discussing how to obtain Kareem Abdul-name Jabbar’s on an ABA contract in Terry Pluto’s narrative history of the ABA, Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association. The New York Nets held the first selection in the ABA draft after a disastrous 17–61 season in 1968–69. The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns in a coin flip after both NBA expansion clubs finished bottom in their divisions.
After the drafts, Abdul-Jabbar informed both teams that he would be in New York for one day. He’d consider the best offer from each league, make a decision, and move on. The ABA spent approximately $10,000 to study Abdul-Jabbar and devise a plan, according to Storen. They figured out two things.
“Alcindor would make his own choice,” Storen predicted. “It wouldn’t be Sam Gilbert (UCLA supporter and agent for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).” It wouldn’t be John Wooden, Alcindor’s parents, or a buddy, either. Alcindor had enough faith in himself to make his own decisions.
“Once he made up his mind, he’d stick to it.” You could put a lot of trust in what he stated because he had a strong sense of loyalty.”
The ABA devised a scheme to make Abdul-Jabbar a billionaire overnight. However, when ABA commissioner George Mikan intervened, things took a turn for the worst.
The ill-fated $1 million check
If it hadn’t been for an NBA legend’s blunder, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar might have become the ABA’s greatest star. | Jerry Cooke/Corbis via Getty Images
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was set to become a billionaire overnight according to the ABA’s scheme. They were going to give him a huge contract, but they were going to cement the deal by handing him a $1 million cashier’s check.
Mikan had the check in his pocket as he entered the meeting. The first presentation was given by the Nets, with Mikan and Nets owner Arthur Brown speaking. The money would be the most proximate. “At least until Mikan departed the meeting, Storen felt confident.”
“When they walked out, I said, ‘Did that check get us where we wanted to go?’” Storen remarked. “‘We felt it wasn’t essential to make him our best offer,’ Mikan said. We think we’ll use the check for the second round of discussions when he gets back to us.’ ‘You did what?’ I shouted.
Mikan assured Storen that Abdul-Jabbar would return once he had received Milwaukee’s offer. When Storen asked the commissioner whether the player had made that remark, he didn’t get the response he sought. “The child did indicate he would make the decision,” Mikan added.
Storen blew up:
“I was yelling at the top of my lungs.” ‘You dunderheads, why did we pay all that money to get all this data if you’re not going to utilize it?’ ‘How could you not hand up the money to him?’
It has come to an end. Abdul-Jabbar agreed to a five-year, $1.4 million contract with the Bucks. At the airport, the ABA attempted to give him the check, but it was too late. The ABA was defeated.
Mikan completed the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar negotiations.
Mikan quit shortly after the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar talks fell down. He told Pluto that he didn’t believe the ABA would ever succeed:
“I can’t prove Alcindor had a pre-existing contract with the NBA, but I believe he did.” We were never given the opportunity to bargain. When Alcindor’s parents saw the cheque, I’m sure they were in tears and couldn’t accept it. That million-dollar cheque is still in my possession.”
We all know how that ended up. The ABA survived until 1976, when four of its clubs merged with the NBA. Abdul-Jabbar retired as the NBA’s all-time greatest scorer after 20 seasons in the league, earning a record six NBA MVP titles.
For those who remember the ABA, it is still the most popular “what if” scenario. What would have happened if Mikan had just handed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar the $1 million check?
Basketball Reference provided the statistics.
RELATED: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Admits He’d Be on the Bench Keeping Stats If He Played in Today’s NBA
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a basketball legend and one of the greatest players in NBA history. He was born into a Muslim family and has been practicing Islam for most of his life. However, he could have joined the American Basketball Association until an NBA legend made a $1 million mistake. Reference: kareem abdul-jabbar religion.
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