Saturday, April 23, 2011

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Had a Documentary Dream

On the Shoulders of Giants, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's documentary adaptation of his 2007 book about 1920s-30s basketball team the Harlem Rens, continues to play on Comcast Video on Demand through the end of the month. But it's also getting a screening in Palm Desert, California on April 30th, after which producer (and co-writer) Abdul-Jabbar and director Deborah Morales will do a Q&A with ESPN 710 Radio's Steve Mason.

The LA Lakers great recently explained to the Desert Sun how Dr. Martin Luther King helped spark his interest in becoming a chronicler of history. As a high schooler, Abdul-Jabbar participated in a summer work journalism program and got to cover a speech given by the civil rights leader:

”That changed my life,” said Abdul-Jabbar. “It was something I wouldn't forget and it had a profound effect on my life.”

“From that point on, I wanted to be a historian and relate the truth of black Americans. The history books I had to deal with in the 1950s and 60s, black Americans were only mentioned in connection to slavery or civil rights, if mentioned at all. Something needs to be done with that, and it’s my motivation.”

One of Abdul-Jabbar's other assignments during that 1964 workshop summer involved learning about his community of Harlem. This led him to the Rens, and a long-gestating interest in the first successful all-black basketball team. All these years later, the film – which premiered in February and is co-narrated by Abdul-Jabbar and actor Jamie Foxx – is educating audiences about a lost sports legacy.

Among those interviewed in the film are Spike Lee, NBA commissioner David Stern, and commentator Charles Barkley.

[On the Shoulders of Giants]

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