Having finished his career as one of the most accomplished players of all time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar needed no further introduction. So, when the NBA hailed its greatest players in the last 75 years, everybody was sure Abdul-Jabbar got his spot there.
The best Kareem interview
While honoring Abdul-Jabbar in an NBA 75 stories video, Riley said he has many memories with his best player; however, there is one that stands out.
"We had a chance to be teammates in the 70s when he came to the Lakers. And obviously, the greatest 10 years of my coaching life was being able to coach you and the Lakers during the 'Showtime' years. But there's one moment that really stands out that I remember about you of so many," Riley began.
Riley will never forget how Abdul-Jabbar dealt with the media after "The Memorial Day Massacre," where the Lakers "got beat 148-114" by the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the 1985 NBA Finals.
Riley said Kareem spent the next three days constantly working on his game, and he got the results he wanted in Game 2. While winning was always sweet, Riley said the way Abdul-Jabbar addressed the media after the victory was even more satisfying.
"The media got on you pretty hard and for three days, you just went after it, went after it, went after it, honed your game, honed your heart, honed your mental state," Riley recounted. "In Game 2, you had 36 [points] and 15 [assists] and six assists and five blocks or whatever it was, the numbers were off the charts…and then after the game when the media surrounded your locker…I recall some pundit…saying, 'How do you explain your performance tonight after what happened on Sunday? And you tactfully said…' Contrary to public opinion, the demise of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was highly exaggerated and there's more to come.' And there was. We won the championship in '85."
Kareem was right
As it turned out, that specific Abdul-Jabbar's remark was more than just a vengeful response. Kareem was already 37 years old when the Lakers copped the 1985 NBA championship. But instead of gradually slowing down en route his twilight years in the league, Abdul-Jabbar played four more competitive seasons and won two more titles with the Lakers. He called it quits in 1989 at the age of 41 as the greatest scorer of all time, a record that still stands today.