April 16, 2008 --The NBAís all-time leading scorer has a lot to celebrate these days. Hours removed from the Lakers clinching the No. 1 seed in the West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is enjoying his 61st birthday today. When the six-time NBA champion isnít teaching the Lakersí frontcourt players post moves in his role as assistant coach, heís updating his web site (www.kareemabduljabbar.com), blogging for the Los Angeles Times and recently completed an eight CD audio book of his best seller, On the Shoulders of Giants, which he is in the process of finishing as a documentary.
Abdul-Jabbar spoke to NBA.com writer John Hareas on the Lakersí title chances, Andrew Bynumís eventual return, whether Kobe deserves the NBAís MVP Award and what Jazz artist is currently capturing his attention.
NBA.com: Any special birthday plans today?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Just going to take it easy. I got a few calls from my friends and family.
NBA.com: Did you think at the beginning of the season that the No. 1 seed was an attainable goal for the Lakers?
Abdul-Jabbar: No, itís been a surprise. We had a lot of ups and downs. Then Andrew Bynum -- it was kind of startling how quickly he figured out how to play the game well --- started contributing in a major way and that changed everything for us.
Regarding Bynumís development, what has stood out?
It really had to do with the fact that all of a sudden he had confidence in what he could do. He had the ability to do the things he was doing probably as much as a year earlier, but he didnít have confidence. He didnít want to embarrass himself. That kind of set him back. He was kind of reticent to go out there and play the way he can play. But all of a sudden he saw that things were working for him, he got a little bit more aggressive and kept getting better and better results.
NBA.com: What is his status? When can we expect his return?
Abdul-Jabbar: He is still doing rehab. I donít know when he is coming back. The Lakers want to give him as much time as he needs.
Can this team win it all without Bynum?
If he gets to play on the same court as Pau Gasol
, theyíre going to be a really difficult combination to contend with. Pau has the team -- without Andrew --very good. They win consistently and theyíre able to be competitive.
NBA.com: How difficult is it for a player trying to come back during the playoffs after having been inactive for so long?
Abdul-Jabbar: It takes a while for you to get back your timing and your response to game conditions. It takes a while to create that readiness that you have when youíre playing everyday. I expect there to be a time of transition from the time he starts playing to when he starts playing very well. It takes a while to get to be really sharp and have everything going for you to go out there and make a major contribution. But we know that he has that potential because he proved it. Weíre just hoping he can get back to that point, the sooner the better for the Lakers.
NBA.com: No one is talking about Phil Jackson for Coach of the Year yet here the Lakers are with the No. 1 seed locked up in the most competitive Western Conference the league has ever seen.
Abdul-Jabbar: That is not a bad analysis of whatís happened, but there are other ways to look at things. I donít think Phil is worried about it. They always look for other people to give it to.
NBA.com: It seems like Kobe has garnered a lot of momentum within the last week or so regarding MVP talk. In your mind, is he the MVP this season?
Abdul-Jabbar: If Kobe wins it, he would deserve it. But there is a whole lot of politics and popularity that surrounds the choice of the MVP. That is another factor that you canít really predict. In a year like this, there would be a whole lot of momentum to support his getting it. He led his team and became a more effective leader, and that should certainly factor into it.
NBA.com: Does the fact that heís never won it after playing 12 regular seasons help his cause?
Abdul-Jabbar: It might. That could be part of it. Itís all about politics and emotion. Who knows what the prevalent feeling is among the people who control the vote.
NBA.com: Outside of basketball, what have you been up to lately?
Abdul-Jabbar: Right now Iím trying to finish off the last part of what I wanted to do with my documentary. I wrote a book on it, On the Shoulders of Giants. I just want to finish off the documentary. Thatís an important thing for me to get done.
NBA.com: What is target date for release?
Abdul-Jabbar: Hopefully weíll at least have it in the can before the summer is over.
NBA.com: Youíre now a journalist since youíre writing a blog for the Los Angeles Times.
Abdul-Jabbar: I had some training as a journalist, so I took on the blog. When I was in high school I was involved in a program where I worked on a newspaper. It was more or less a summer poverty program thing to train the kids in Harlem how to make it a better place. It was called Haryou-Act [Harlem Youth Action Project]. They had different workshops to give the kids in Harlem some summer employment and show them how to make it a better place. I was involved in the journalism workshop. Thatís when I really got my grounding and became very interested in black history and writing.
The blog has enabled me to speak about whatever interests me. They didnít try to limit it. So I guess people got a stream of consciousness about the things that I find interesting and the things that I want to share with people.
NBA.com: Youíre such a jazz aficionado. What CD are you currently listening to?
Abdul-Jabbar: I donít always get them in a timely fashion, but there is one by Christian McBride called Gettiní to it that Iíve enjoyed listening to recently. Another one by a pianist named Robert Glasper called In My Element.
NBA.com: How would you describe their styles?
Abdul-Jabbar: Well, Robert Glasper is like pretty cutting edge in terms of being a young pianist. He is doing a whole lot of new things. He is very much aware of jazz tradition, but heís not held back by it. Heís got his own ideas and Iíve enjoyed listening to his disc very much.
NBA.com: Youíve participated in 18 postseasons, hold numerous playoff records, awards and championships. No greater time than the NBA Playoffs.
Abdul-Jabbar: I think this is the time that all the fans get into. The ones that have teams in the playoffs are very happy and the ones that donít are a little bit mumbling to themselves and we get to see how the year plays out. Everybody seems to enjoy that.