“Abdul-Jabbar recounts his lifelong friendship with UCLA coach John Wooden, and the ways he learned only later that Wooden guided and tried to protect him as he broke through racial barriers.”
Featured in LA Times’ Best Non-Fiction Books of 2017.
Coach Wooden and Me is a book about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 50 years of friendship with Coach John Wooden, who were brought together by the game of basketball and built one of the most long-lasting and meaningful relationships in sports history.
When NBA’s all-time leading scorer and a six-time NBA champion, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was still an 18-year-old high school basketball prospect from New York City named Lew Alcindor, he accepted a scholarship from UCLA solely on the strength of Coach John Wooden’s reputation as a winner. It turned out to be the right choice, as Lew Alcindor and his teammates won an unprecedented three NCAA championship titles. But it also marked the beginning of one of the most extraordinary friendships in the world of sports.
What happens when a 7.5′-tall black basketball player and budding political activist meets a white Midwestern coach 37 years his senior in racially-charged 1967? For Coach John Wooden and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, this odd couple relationship becomes a memorable mentorship turned friendship. Set around his college years at UCLA, Coach Wooden and Me by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a touching tribute to Kareem’s friendship with “Coach.
He told his players on Day One that basketball was last on their hierarchy of priorities: family, faith, and education came first. He encouraged his players to eschew drinking, drugs, and sex–tough for 18-year-olds away from their parents’ watchful eyes for the first time. It was especially difficult for the impoverished players like Kareem, thrust from Harlem into the racially-charged new world of Los Angeles.