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Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court

Review

Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court

Looking at Kareem Abdul-Jabbar now, you would think basketball has always been at the center of his life. His height makes him seem like he was born to play basketball --- not so. He developed a passion for baseball first and originally wanted to become a professional baseball player. But time and circumstances eventually brought him to the basketball court where he learned to be a great player.

In BECOMING KAREEM, Kareem offers readers a fascinating, yet sobering, look into the world in which he grew up. He was born in 1947 in Harlem and named Lewis Alcindor. He was raised as a Catholic. Kareem gives a sobering insight into what it is like to grow up black in the United States, particularly for those who were young during the Civil Rights era. Living in this time period caused him to question his beliefs and his religion. This is the story of a man who became a legend on the basketball court, but it is also the story of how Lewis Alcindor became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

'Kareem...shows great insight...and he has a wonderful sense of language. His turn of the phrase is refreshing, and his knowledge and humor come across in the written word."

Kareem has a very interesting story to tell. Not only did he make a name for himself on the basketball court, but he also made an impact with the written word. He became a journalist at the Heritage Teaching Program for the Harlem Youth Action Project in 1964, when he was a junior in high school. Since then, he has written more than a dozen books, many of them bestsellers. He also became a member of the Sunni sect of Islam, changing his religion from Catholic to Muslim.

This is a great book. Kareem writes with a style that shows great insight into himself and his world and he has a wonderful sense of language. His turn of the phrase is refreshing, and his knowledge and humor come across in the written word. I had a hard time putting down the book, as I just wanted to keep reading it.

However, there were a couple of things in the text that were a bit puzzling. For instance, at one point in the text, the narrative jumped about 30 years to discuss something that happened and then went back to where it was. Up until that point, the narrative had been chronological. That was a bit jarring.

Also, about one third of the way through the book, Kareem mentions migraines for the very first time. The texts says, "It was another of my migraines." This was a bit concerting to read because the issue of migraines had never been discussed in the text before this time and they were never mentioned again.

Regardless, this book would be great for a discussion on current events. Kareem talks a lot about racism, religion and Islam and a lot of the topics that are in today's news. Near the end of the book, Kareem writes, "Because the government wasn't doing that much to prevent it, racists felt emboldened to act out their hostilities by committing violent acts against black people." This was in 1968. It sounds an awful lot like what is happening in our country now.

Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin on December 14, 2017

Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court
by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld