Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has followed his wildly successful basketball career with a multitude of acting gigs and a job as cultural ambassador for the United States. Now 66, the NBA's all-time leading scorer is also a best-selling author.
Abdul-Jabbar's latest writing project is "Sasquatch in the Paint," a children's book about a nerdy eighth-grader who grows so tall that a basketball coach is determined to turn him into a player.
Abdul-Jabbar has written plenty of books before -- including NAACP Image Award winner "What Color is My World?" -- but the retired basketball star told The New York Times Friday that his most recent project is more about adolescence.
"This [book] is a lot different," Abdul-Jabbar said.
It’s about life lessons. It’s kids growing up. It’s based on a lot of the experiences I had growing up, trying to make that transition from being a child to being an adult. Going through adolescence. The main character in the book, Theo, is in the eighth grade. He’s just had a growth spurt, he’s not very good at playing basketball, but because he’s tall, everybody expects him to be a dominant player.
Abdul-Jabbar said he wrote the book to reach out to children -- especially children of color -- that being "smart is cool."
I just thought there is so much in popular culture that tells kids, especially minority kids, that if they’re going to be successful, it’s going to have to be in the field of sports or entertainment. And that if it’s not that, they’re not going to make it. A young kid growing up in the Bronx, he wants to be Jay-Z or LeBron James or he wants to be Denzel Washington. They don’t see themselves being successful doing other things. Theo, the main character, is on the academic team. He’s smart. Books just don’t sit in the corner in his room. That was one message I want to get across. Being smart is cool.
In a recent reading at North Carolina's Fort Bragg, where his father was once stationed, Abdul-Jabbar told children that they should follow their dreams -- and not necessarily those of their peers.
"Kids sometime because of peer pressure end up doing the wrong thing because they think it makes them part of the accepted group," he said. "There is no one accepted group."