On Monday night, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Twitter account sent out an innocuous Tweet announcing a new deal for his recent hoops documentary to be streamed on Netflix. Three minutes before Jabbar’s Tweet, a virtually identical Tweet was sent out by Abdul-Jabbar’s manager Deborah Morales, who also directed the movie.
(Lakers: We Would’ve Bumped The Logo For Kareem Had We Known)
What followed those promo Tweets the next two days appeared to be a masterfully choreographed public relations campaign to drum up interest in the newly-announced online distribution deal for Abdul-Jabbar’s recent film project.
On May 17, a day after the initial pair of Tweets, Abdul-Jabbar manager Morales posted a press release announcing the Netflix deal on her public relations website. (Though the release was dated May 18.)
On the morning of May 18, Morales Tweeted a link along with what seemed like a rhetorical question (at least at the time): “KAJs Statue at Staples.. do you think he deserves it?”
Three months earlier, Scott Howard-Cooper wrote the following on NBA.com:
Bryant is expected to get a statue after retirement as well, according to one person familiar with the thinking of Lakers owner Jerry Buss. Elgin Baylor and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are also likely to be put in the special category, at a later date. But being fitted for the ultimate of Lakers honors outside the home court doesn’t really matter.
Thanks to the link by already-noted statue aficionado Morales, we soon found out that apparently it does matter. At least to Abdul-Jabbar.
Morales’ link went to a just-published piece by Steve Greenberg of SportingNews.com that detailed Abdul-Jabbar’s dissatisfaction with not having a statue outside Staples Center. The piece by Greenberg included this passage:
In a subsequent statement passed along by his business manager, Abdul-Jabbar said: “I am highly offended by the total lack of acknowledgement of my contribution to Laker success. I guess being the lynchpin for five world championships is not considered significant enough in terms of being part of Laker history.”
(Misspelling all the more unfortunate considering it was “passed along” to Greenberg by Abdul-Jabbar publicist/movie director/business manager Morales.)
Six hours later, this Tweet was seen on Abdul-Jabbar’s Twitter account:
Rumor has it that I will be getting a statue. A caveat for all my fans-don’t hold your breath. Lakers don’t care about me. #KAJ33
With Abdul-Jabbar’s (sky)hook now sufficiently baited, the inevitable media feeding frenzy soon followed.
During some of his interviews the past 48 hours, Abdul-Jabbar revealed that the heart of his apparent discontent with the Lakers was not getting a playoff share after the last several postseason runs enjoyed by the club.
What Abdul-Jabbar failed to mention in that complaint was it was the players who did not vote him a share, not club management.
The same club management that awarded Abdul-Jabbar a playoff bonus anyway, along with a hefty seven-figure salary despite the fact that the NBA legend the past few seasons has been a “coach” with the club in name only. (He was initially hired to tutor Andrew Bynum, but Bynum has since moved on from the relationship.)
It goes without saying, despite Deborah Morales’ Twitter account, that Abdul-Jabbar deserves to be immortalized in some manner by the Lakers in the future.
But if you asked Abdul-Jabbar what he preferred the Lakers cared more for, giving him a statue fifteen years ago or gifting him millions the past several years, with Abdul-Jabbar’s notoriously tenuous financial condition I’m not so sure how brave he’d be about slaying the Lakers these days.