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Review of Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court

Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court
by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 
and Raymond Obstfeld
Middle School, High School    Little, Brown    291 pp.
11/17    978-0-316-55538-8    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-316-55533-3    $9.99

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds the NBA record for most points scored (38,387), and his college basketball career at UCLA under Coach John Wooden is legendary, his “skyhook” an emblem of one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Born Lewis Alcindor, “Lew” changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (“noble servant of God”) in 1971 at age twenty-four, marking a religious, cultural, and political awakening. As a youth he paid attention to the civil rights demonstrations in the South, and he here offers a solid introduction to that era. In clear and straightforward prose, Abdul-Jabbar writes a rich and nuanced sports story of growing up in troubled times. Readers will find in Abdul-Jabbar a friendly, informative, and conversational companion who relates his experiences and appreciations for the various “coaches” in his life, including Wilt Chamberlain, 
Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, and historian John Henrik Clarke — as well as “Coach Dad’s Quiet Lessons” and “Coach Mom’s Practical Lessons.” A sixteen-page insert of well-captioned black-and-white photos (“1952: Me 
and my big ears at Public School 52. I’m only five years old and already 
the biggest kid in my class”) is a nice bonus.

From the March/April 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Dean Schneider

Dean Schneider teaches seventh and eighth grades at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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