How Long Was Kareem In The NBA?

Hey, have you ever wondered how long Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the legendary basketball player, was in the NBA? Well, let me give you the scoop. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, had an astonishingly long career in the NBA. From 1969 to 1989, Kareem dominated the courts, leaving a lasting impact on the sport. So, he was a force to be reckoned with for a remarkable 20 seasons in the NBA. Impressive, right? Let’s take a closer look at his incredible journey in the world of basketball.

Early Life and NBA Career Beginnings

Kareem’s Childhood and Introduction to Basketball

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, born as Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr., grew up in New York City during the 1950s and 1960s. From a young age, he displayed exceptional height and a natural athleticism that would later make him one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Basketball wasn’t initially Kareem’s first love, as he found solace in playing baseball and studying classical music. However, it was in the streets of Harlem where Kareem’s basketball journey began.

High School Success

Kareem attended Power Memorial Academy, a prestigious high school in New York City known for its strong basketball program. It was here that he started to gain recognition for his skills on the court. Standing at an impressive 7 feet 2 inches tall, Kareem towered over his opponents, but it was his skill set that truly set him apart. With a unique blend of agility, finesse, and a deadly skyhook shot, Kareem dominated high school basketball, leading Power Memorial Academy to multiple championships and establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with.

College Career at UCLA

Continuing his basketball journey, Kareem attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to play under the legendary coach, John Wooden. Kareem’s time at UCLA was nothing short of extraordinary. He led the Bruins to an incredible three consecutive NCAA Championships from 1967 to 1969. Kareem’s dominance on the court was incomparable as he showcased his immense skillset, winning multiple Most Outstanding Player awards and solidifying his place as one of the greatest college basketball players of all time.

Drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks

After an illustrious college career, Kareem declared for the NBA draft in 1969. His undeniable talent and college success made him the most sought-after prospect. The Milwaukee Bucks had the first overall pick in the draft and wasted no time selecting Kareem. This marked the beginning of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA career, a career that would span an incredible 20 seasons, leaving an indelible mark on the league.

Dominating the 1970s

Rookie Season with the Milwaukee Bucks

Kareem’s transition to the professional level was seamless. In his rookie season with the Milwaukee Bucks, he immediately made his presence felt by averaging an astonishing 28.8 points per game and 14.5 rebounds per game. His dominance earned him the Rookie of the Year award, setting the stage for a remarkable career ahead.

First NBA Championship

In the 1970-1971 season, Kareem led the Milwaukee Bucks to their first-ever NBA championship, showcasing his leadership and ability to perform in pressure situations. His impact on the court was undeniable, and he earned his first NBA Finals MVP award. This victory established Kareem not only as an individual talent but also as a winner capable of leading a team to greatness.

Trade to the Los Angeles Lakers

After six successful seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks, Kareem was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1975. This move proved to be a defining moment in his career as he formed one of the most iconic duos in NBA history with the dynamic point guard, Magic Johnson. The combination of Kareem’s scoring prowess and Magic’s playmaking ability would revolutionize the game and usher in a new era of success for the Lakers.

NBA MVP Awards

Throughout the 1970s, Kareem’s dominance was recognized by the league as he won a remarkable six NBA MVP awards (1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977, and 1980). This unprecedented feat solidified his status as one of the greatest players of all time, showcasing his consistency, versatility, and sheer dominance on both ends of the court.

Record-breaking Feats

Kareem’s career was not only defined by his championships and individual awards but also by his ability to break records. In 1984, he surpassed Wilt Chamberlain to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, a record that still stands to this day. Kareem’s iconic skyhook, a shot that seemed unstoppable, became his signature move and a testament to his unparalleled skill and offensive prowess.

The Showtime Era and Later Years

Magic Johnson Partnership

The Kareem-Magic partnership became the cornerstone of the Lakers’ success in the 1980s. With Magic’s exceptional passing ability and Kareem’s dominance in the paint, the duo revolutionized the fast-paced style of play known as “Showtime.” Their dynamic chemistry on the court led to numerous highlight-reel plays and an electric atmosphere that captivated fans around the world.

Multiple NBA Finals Appearances

During the 1980s, the Lakers, led by Kareem and Magic, became a perennial powerhouse, making multiple appearances in the NBA Finals. With Kareem’s scoring ability and leadership, the Lakers clinched championships in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988. Kareem’s invaluable contributions on both ends of the court were instrumental in these successes.

Second NBA Championship

In the 1981-1982 season, Kareem led the Lakers to their second NBA championship of the decade. Despite battling injuries, he displayed his resilience and determination, providing a steady presence in the paint and proving that his skills were not diminishing with age. This championship further solidified Kareem’s status as one of the greatest players to ever grace the hardwood.

Statistical Consistency

Throughout his career, Kareem showcased unparalleled consistency. He averaged over 20 points per game for 17 consecutive seasons, demonstrating his scoring prowess year in and year out. Kareem’s impact was not limited to offense, as he also excelled defensively, finishing his career as one of the top shot-blockers in NBA history. His versatility and longevity set him apart from his peers and made him a true force in the league.

Transition to a Supporting Role

As Kareem approached the later years of his career, he gracefully transitioned into a supporting role while continuing to contribute to the success of the Lakers. Embracing his role as a mentor and veteran leader, he provided invaluable guidance to younger players, ensuring a smooth transition for the team’s future stars.

Retirement and Legacy

Retirement Decision

After 20 incredible seasons in the NBA, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar announced his retirement in 1989. His decision marked the end of an era, as he left a lasting impression on the game of basketball and etched his name in the record books. Kareem’s retirement was met with widespread respect and admiration, as fans and fellow players acknowledged his monumental impact on the sport.

Post-NBA Contributions

Following his retirement, Kareem continued to make significant contributions off the court. He became an accomplished writer, penning several best-selling books and articles focused on topics ranging from basketball to social and political issues. Kareem’s intellectual prowess and eloquent voice solidified his status as a respected and influential figure.

Awards and Accolades

Kareem’s illustrious career garnered numerous awards and accolades. In addition to his six NBA MVP awards, he was selected to play in the NBA All-Star Game a record-breaking 19 times. He earned ten All-NBA First Team selections and five NBA All-Defensive First Team selections, further cementing his status as one of the game’s all-time greats.

Kareem’s Influence on the Game

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s impact on the game of basketball extends far beyond his on-court achievements. Known for his humility, intellect, and thoughtful activism, Kareem used his platform to shed light on social issues and promote positive change. His outspokenness and advocacy for racial equality and social justice have made him an iconic figure both in and outside of the basketball community.

Continued Popularity

Even in retirement, Kareem remains one of the most beloved and respected figures in the world of basketball. His legacy as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, his unmatched list of accolades, and his undeniable impact on the game have solidified his place in basketball history. Kareem’s influence continues to inspire future generations of players, ensuring that his legacy lives on.


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s journey from Harlem’s playgrounds to NBA greatness is a story of perseverance, dominance, and unwavering passion for the game. His remarkable career spanned two decades and left an indelible mark on basketball history. From his high school dominance to his unprecedented success in the NBA, Kareem’s impact on and off the court has shaped the way the game is played and perceived. As one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s legacy is a testament to the heights that can be achieved through dedication, skill, and a relentless love for the game.

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