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Q&A: Kareem on teaching, the Lakers and Tim Duncan

By John Hareas,
Posted Mar 10 2009 5:06PM

Playing the right way. It was at the core of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's brilliant 20-year NBA career. Now the six-time NBA champion and league MVP wants to ensure that today's young players do the same.

The Hall of Famer recently launched, an instructional web site devoted to teaching the fundamentals of the game while providing amateur coaches an opportunity to raise funds for their respective teams.

Abdul-Jabbar spoke to's John Hareas about's mission as well as his thoughts on whether the Lakers can win it all without Andrew Bynum; Shaq's assessment that he and Kobe are the best big-man, little-man combo in NBA history and why Tim Duncan is the greatest big man of this generation. How did HoopIQ come about?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: A lot of young players don't really know much about the history of the game and a lot of them are missing out on what the game is all about, especially the whole concept of sportsmanship and teamwork.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is launching a new instructional Web site,

A lot of players think the game is all about individual performances when it's really all about a team game. I want to give them an idea of how the game should be played, so I decided to do a series of demonstrations that will show them what they should be thinking about when they're on the basketball court.

On, we have a number of different training videos focusing on the important and crucial aspects of the game that players can access via the web site or e-mailed directly to you.

For example, in one demonstration, we focus on rebounding. We talk about individual and team defense. We talk about shooting. We talk about the layup and its purpose and how it's part of the game.

We talk about how all the different parts of the game connect together and the best way to try to use those components to have a good concept of how to play the complete game.

In addition to myself, Andrew Bynum, Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, A.C. Green and my son, Kareem, are all involved in demonstrating the fundamentals of the game. There is also a historical component to the Web site. I've seen interviews with John Wooden and Bill Russell.

Kareem: HoopIQ also features historical vignettes on the pioneers of the game and how they played the game. Hopefully, young players will get an idea of what the game is all about and how to play it.

Another important component of is the fundraising aspect for youth teams nationwide. Coaches can help raise money for their teams by partnering with me. For example, a team can sell an audio CD on the history of the Harlem Rens basketball team and share in the proceeds for their team.

So many teams, especially AAU teams, need money for travel, equipment, court time. This will enable them to raise money to do those kinds of things. The top fundraising teams will win prizes, including attending a Laker game with me or a half-day private clinic, plus there are a number of autographed items also. How different would it be for you coming through the ranks today vs. back in the '60s?

Kareem: I think the way things go these days, there is a direct line for very talented players that goes straight from high school to the professional ranks. But college isn't emphasized very much any more and I think that's unfortunate.

I think I really benefitted from going to college. I also had the great opportunity to watch Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain play, starting when I was in grade school. I had good coaches who pointed out what the great players were doing and why it was so effective. Seeing Jerry West play, seeing Oscar Robertson play, seeing Dave Bing play at an early age really helped me with what I wanted to do when I got out on the court.

College gives you the opportunity to learn about the game in a much less intense atmosphere and that helps, makes it possible for you to figure out what's what on the court and gives you a chance to develop as a person. That doesn't happen when you go directly from high school to the pros. It's a very intense atmosphere and you don't have a real shot of learning in a relaxed environment. Let's turn to some things going on around the league: Can the Lakers win it all without Andrew Bynum?

Kareem: I think the Lakers have a chance to win it all without Andrew but it's not something they want to think about. They would love to have him on the team, so they can go with their best team. But no one knows what's going to happen in terms of his injury. How is Bynum progressing?

Kareem: Andrew seems to be in good spirits. He absolutely wants to get out there and play again. I think he has accepted what's happened to him and is patiently waiting for his opportunity to get back out there to do his thing. What is the major difference in this season's Lakers team and last year's?

Kareem: I think this year's team is certainly more experienced with what they went through in the playoffs last year and it really should be the foundation for them to have a more profound understanding of what it takes to win everything. I expect them to do well in the playoffs. Shaq is quoted as saying he and Kobe are the best big-man, little-man combo in NBA history. What do you think?

Kareem: He's entitled to think what he thinks. It doesn't really faze me what his thoughts are on that. He has his idea of what his place is in the game. I'm not going to dispute it. Who is the most overlooked big man in the game today?

Kareem: The big man that I think has been the best of this generation is Tim Duncan. He gets the job done, night in and night out. He's versatile, totally able to do the things his team needs him to do to win. Tim is the leader for the Spurs. He's consistent. He does a number of different things, offensively and defensively. He's a good rebounder. He's also consistent offensively to be a go-to guy -- nothing is lacking in his game. He's very well rounded and very, very consistent. The skyhook was the most difficult shot to defend when you played. Who has the most difficult shot to defend in today's game?

Kareem: LeBron James can get a shot off under any and all circumstances and he makes them. I think in terms of a last-minute play to get a basket, LeBron or Kobe is the type of player you want with the ball in their hands. As a student of the history of the game, we recently lost a pioneer, John Isaacs, formerly of the Harlem Rens.

Kareem: I think John Isaacs really was not appreciated very much due to the fact that the era he played in was so long ago. People didn't know who he was. But he played on a great team, the Harlem Rens. That team won the very first championship in professional basketball. He's definitely one of the foundations of the game along with his teammates and I think they deserve more recognition.

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