From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr.; April 16, 1947) is an American athlete and retired professional basketball player, widely considered one of the greatest NBA players of all time. During his 20 years in the NBA from 1969 to 1989, he scored 38,387 points – the highest total of any player in league history – in addition to winning a record six Most Valuable Player Awards. He was known for his "Skyhook" shot, which was famously difficult to block because it put his 7' 2" body between the basket and the ball. Abdul-Jabbar's success began well before his professional career; in college, he played on three championship teams, and his high school team won 71 consecutive games.
Playing in Los Angeles facilitated Abdul-Jabbar's trying his hand at acting. Abdul-Jabbar made his movie debut in Bruce Lee's posthumous 1978 film Game of Death, in which his character Hakim fought Billy Lo (played by Lee). His character was the last and most dangerous guardian that Bruce Lee's character had to face. In the extended footage of the final fight scenes of the film (which was shot in 1973), which last about half an hour, Abdul-Jabbar and Lee fight on the highest level of a pagoda in which Lee's character had to fight his way up. From Lee's viewpoint, the highest level on the pagoda is where Jeet Kune Do, represented by Abdul-Jabbar himself, is found. Through the entire fight, both men not only fight with an ease hard to obtain, but they both make it known neither of them fear death.
In 1980, he played co-pilot Roger Murdock in Airplane! Abdul-Jabbar has a memorable scene in which a little boy looks at him and remarks that he is in fact Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Staying in character, Abdul-Jabbar states that he is merely Roger Murdock, an airline co-pilot, but the boy continues to insist that he is "the greatest", but that, according to his father, he doesn't "work hard on defense" and "never really tries, except during the playoffs". This causes Abdul-Jabbar's character to blow a fuse, grab the boy and snarl he has heard "that crap since UCLA", he "busts his buns every night" and the boy should tell his old man to "drag [Bill] Walton and [Bob] Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes". When Murdock passes out later in the film, he is carried out wearing Abdul-Jabbar's goggles and yellow Lakers' shorts.
He has had numerous other TV and film appearances, often playing himself, including appearances in the movie Fletch, the sitcoms Full House, Living Single, Amen, Everybody Loves Raymond, Martin, Diff'rent Strokes (his height humorously contrasted with that of diminutive child star Gary Coleman), The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Scrubs, and Emergency!. He also appeared in the telemovie version of Stephen King's The Stand, played himself in Slam Dunk Ernest, the aforementioned Full House and a brief non-speaking cameo appearance in BASEketball. Kareem was also the co-executive producer of the 1994 TV movie, The Vernon Johns Story. In 2008 Kareem appeared on the Colbert Report as a stage manager who was sent out on a mission to find Nazi Gold. <ref>Monday Mar 31 2008 | The Colbert Report | Comedy Central</ref>