Unpublished Black History

Credit Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times

A High School Sensation

The shorts and kneepads scream 1965. But who is that lanky seven-foot-tall, 17-year-old high school athlete standing with teammates from Power Memorial Academy at the Catholic High School Athletic Association Championship game?

College recruiters were pursuing the center with intensity, harassing him in the street and searching for his unlisted phone number. The athlete, Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr., was a giant, an epic talent. But he eschewed the spotlight. He referred each scout to his coach. 

“I want two things from college,” Alcindor said. “I want to be treated like Lew Alcindor. I want an education.” 

Eventually he settled on U.C.L.A., then a career in the N.B.A., starting with the Milwaukee Bucks. He led the Bucks to a championship in 1971, and the day after that victory, he changed his name to one we are a bit more familiar with: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

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