On this day in 1969, the Milwaukee Bucks signed Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) to his first NBA contract. He would play for Milwaukee until 1975, then join the L.A. Lakers until his retirement in 1989.
While Kareem’s career as a Laker is well-documented, his accomplishments as a Buck often go understated. With that said, here are some things you need to know about the Buck that was Lew Alcindor.
Lew Alcindor was both the first overall pick in the 1969 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, and the top overall pick in the 1969 American Basketball Association (ABA) draft by the New Jersey Nets. Oh, and he also turned down a $1 million offer from the Harlem Globetrotters. Yup, he was THAT good. Alcindor chose to go with the Bucks and the NBA over the Nets and the ABA, a decision that changed the course of both leagues forever [Bill Simmons explains the incredible story here].
He won the 1970 NBA Rookie of the Year award with per game averages of 28.8 points and 14.5 rebounds. The Bucks improved to 56-26 that season after going 27-55 the previous one. [Check out this old blog post to see some of the best rookie seasons in NBA history.]
Oscar Robertson joined the Bucks before the 1970-71 season, helping Alcindor lead Milwaukee to a regular season record of 66-16. They even strung together a win streak of 20 games at one point that season, a record for the NBA at the time. Alcindor averaged 31.7 points and 16.0 rebounds per game as he won the regular season MVP award. He later won the Finals MVP that season after the Bucks swept the Baltimore Bullets in the 1971 NBA Finals.
Not sure what the rush was, but the day after winning the 1971 Finals, Alcindor legally changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In Arabic, ‘Kareem’ means generous, servant of ‘Abdul’ the mighty one ‘Jabbar’.
How or why did Kareem start wearing those goggles?! During a preseason game in 1974, Abdul-Jabbar broke his hand after punching the basket support after a hard foul. During the play, he scratched his eye and would wear protective goggles for the rest of his career. The injured hand sidelined him for the first 16 games of that season. [Didn't everyone get mad at Amare for something similar? See .. **** happens during the heat of the moment. Relax, critics.]