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Story 347
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - He was known as Lew Alcindor then--it was his rookie season in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks and the first NBA game I ever went to with my brother and parents when I was 13. The game was a home game for the Bucks in Milwaukee. I was so naive I even brought an autograph book and pen with me. We were waiting just inside the arena (I recall it was a cold, dark, and damp misty winter evening--raining, not snowing) with a few others for the gate to open for the ticket-holding public (had to watch warmups!) when outside on the street by that same entrance who came bounding out of a cab with a pretty, well-dressed young woman on one arm and a duffle bag in his other arm but Lew Alcindor himself! He said goodbye to his lady friend (maybe wife? I don't really know) after they both walked inside near where we were. Lew was waiting at a gate while a guard fumbled with some keys to open it for him (standing 7'2", he didn't need to show an ID to identify himself!). I walked about 10 feet over to him with pen and autograph in hand, extended them upwards toward him, and asked "Mr. Alcindor, can I please have an autograph?". He looked down on me and with a very quiet voice that I barely heard said "Not right now", and was soon off through the gate and heading toward the locker room. He must have been quite late, because minutes later when we were let in, all the other players were already on the court warming up and he was the last to show. The Bucks hosted the New York Knicks that night, and the game was on national TV on ABC with Chris Schenkel announcing. Lew poured in 41 or 42 points that night going against Willis Reed and the Bucks won--the Knicks were very good that year and went on to win the NBA title that season. I think there may have been a cover shot from that game on Sports Illustrated, too. Alas, no autograph for me but I have remained a Bucks fan over the years--and having attended probably dozens of NBA games since have never encountered another NBA player under quite the same circumstances again.
- Posted: February 22, 2007

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