Cap's Corner - 4/27/10

Cap's Corner by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

You appeared at the Jackie Robinson tribute put on by the Dodgers. What did Jackie Robinson mean to you personally?

I was an avid Brooklyn Dodgers fan and Jackie was a hero to all Black Americans because he was the first player to integrate major league baseball. Jackies fiery play was greatly admired by fans of all descriptions but he was also a great role model for kids because of the way he handled himself. He was articulate and patient even in the face of blatant racism. I also was curious about UCLA due to the fact that Jackie attended school here. He sent me a letter while I was in High School pursuing UCLA as a great place to attend college. I found him to be a leader in so many ways.

The Lakers unveiled a statue for Chick Hearn, do you have any favorite stories about Chick?

I thought Chick was one of the great sportscasters in America. He was always up to date on the details of the game and he was able to convey the subtleties of basketball to the least sophisticated listener. Many people don't get all of the nuances of the game but Chuck was great at breaking down the game into its component parts and conveying that to the average fan. His knowledge about the history of the game was also a factor in his ability to charm the fans.

How do you teach a big man foot work? Are there specific drills that you employ?

I try to start the players with simple drills and then increase the degree of difficulty as times goes on. This enables the player to learn at his own pace. The pivot game requires an awareness of where you are in relation to the ball and your opponents. That court sense is the crucial aspect of playing the pivot. When a center gets the space awareness around the hoop, he is able to anchor his teams defense and be a force on offense. The drills I try to reach are designed to increase the awareness of the center as to how to help his team mates at both ends of the court.

What are the differences in teaching offensive footwork vs. defensive footwork?

The offensive game requires a player to recognize certain situations and take advantage of them. It is proactive. On defense a player must react to what is going on so it takes a different type of preparation. The ball is often in the center hands on the offensive end of the court so I try to get any player I am working with to be ready to attack the hoop or pass the ball as the situation warrants. On defense the center can help his team mates by shooting down the lane so that the offensive team cannot get easy lay ups. This greatly increases a teams chance of winning by forcing their opponents to take low percentage shots.

What was your feeling about the importance of home court when you were battling in the playoffs?

Home court advantage give a team an edge because the visiting team must spend more time traveling and staying in a hotel than the team with home court advantage. The psychological burden of being on the road can create laziness in the visiting teams psyche. So any time the home team can sense this and encourage it they gain an advantage.