“The Impact Rocked Me Backward A Few Feet” | Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Remembers Bruce Lee’s Impact On His Life

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Los Angeles Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a legend in basketball and martial arts due to his relationship with Bruce Lee.

Kareem would become Lee’s student, and the two would train and become friends for life.

When Kareem met a not yet famous Bruce Lee, he was a martial arts teacher in Los Angeles in 1967. According to the book “Becoming Kareem,” the 7-foot-2 player was still a college student at UCLA when he first heard about Bruce Lee from a friend.

Kareem x Bruce

“Bruce was the kind of person who could win you over within twenty seconds of meeting him. Most martial arts instructors I had met before were very stiff and formal, constantly demanding overt demonstrations of respect. Not Bruce.”

Lee’s personality instantly entranced Kareem.

“He greeted me with a broad smile and friendly demeanor, and right away, I knew this was not a scowling teacher from Japanese films demanding bowing obedience. We talked UCLA basketball for a while and then got down to business.”

Bruce’s Convincing Act

The book explains how Bruce utilized his wife Linda to teach him a valuable lesson about the martial arts: Looks are not what they seem.

“Bruce asked his wife, Linda, to assist him in a demonstration. He told me to brace myself behind the heavy punching bag that hung by a chain from the ceiling. The bag was as thick and heavy as a body.

“‘Hold it as tight as you can,’ he instructed me. Suddenly Linda fired off a kick straight into the bag. The impact rocked me backward a few feet, readjusted my spine, and possibly rearranged the order of my teeth. They stood there smiling at the shocked expression on my face. ‘OkAY,’ I said, rubbing my chest. ‘Teach me that.’”

The Student Chooses A Teacher

Kareem was sold on the Lees, and he began working with Bruce as his martial arts teacher. As Bruce Lee’s stature grew as an action star and actor, the two maintained their friendship.

Kareem would become a basketball legend and cement the Lakers as one of the best teams in NBA history. He remained friends with Lee and even made a guest appearance in “Game of Death,” one of Bruce’s movies.

The two even have a fight scene together.

Formerly known as Lew Alcindor, Kareem grew up in New York City and struggled with fitting in as a young basketball phenom with a strict father. According to the book, Kareem’s childhood was made difficult by “racism and prejudice” before his “record-smashing career on the basketball court as an adult.”

A Legacy Like No Other

Kareem’s relationships with figures like Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee were pivotal and helped influence him on his path to becoming an activist for social change. His basketball records are still being challenged to this day.

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In February, LeBron James passed the former Lakers legend for the most points scored all-time, counting regular season and playoffs. Kareem’s regular and postseason total was 44,149.

However, LeBron did it in 181 fewer games. Kareem is still the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, based on the NBA considering a only regular-season points scored.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.