Cap's Corner - 12/14/10

Cap's Corner by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

What are some of your outstanding memories about taking long road trips with your teammates?

KAJ: My fondest memories of Laker road trips were the ones where we got to spend quality time together. For example a trip to Detroit would mean that we would get to eat a meal cooked by Magic's mom. She would cook enough to give all the players something to take with them. So the guys would get to eat great meals for a couple of days after we left Detroit. After we would go to the movies and have a chance to escape being stuck in our rooms. We were able to get to know each other in this way and that led to more solid team cohesion.

How much more difficult were road trips prior to team charter flights?

KAJ: Road trips were a lot more difficult for the players because we had to take commercial flights. For example, after a game we would have to get the first flight available the next morning to our next destination. We didn't get to travel on a charter place with seats customized to accomdate seven foot players. The planes we flew on didn't always have a first class and were not catered. The players today get to leave the game to go to the airport and fly in these chartered planes to the next location where they get to check into their hotels and sleep until their next practice. I think I could have played 2 more years if I had the option of traveling on the road in this fashion but the Lakers did not start traveling this way until my first year in retirement.

What did you pack to wear for such a trip other than the items needed for a game?

KAJ: I tried to bring clothes that were suitable for whatever weather we would encounter. Pat Riley also had a minimum standard for our appearance so dress jeans and polo shirts were as casual as we could dress when encountering the public.

Phil Jackson has a Thanksgiving tradition in which the big men take on the guards in a game called the “Turkey Trot,” which is in many ways intended to make the bigs and smalls appreciate the skills that one another bring. Were there any holiday traditions when you played, either with the coaches or just with teammates?

KAJ: I don't remember any special holiday traditions that the team observed when I played.

Kobe Bryant has shown mastery of operating out of the double team by quickly swinging the ball for what were eventually three consecutive three-pointers from teammates. After the game, he said he had to orchestrate the precise positions in which his teammates would stand to ensure that the double team could be beat. What were your standard operating procedures for dealing with the double team? How did you learn to read the defense to anticipate a double team?

KAJ: I was often the target of double teams and I was fortunate to have teammates who were savvy enough to do the right thing in the event that their man would double team me. If say a player passed me the ball and his man doubled me that teammate was expected to cut to the basket immediately. If no one picked him up he was open for a layup. If someone did pick him up that meant at least 2 other players should be completely or partially open. It was up to me to find that player and get the ball to him quickly. We always knew where players should be in our offense so we were usually able to react to the double team teams pretty effectively.