Dancing with the Stars has a rich history of promoting retired athletes and highlighting the footwork and precision that remains with them long after their playing careers.
That said, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who retired from the NBA almost 30 years ago, might not be an obvious choice to join the show. He’s an accomplished 71-year-old man, with 14 books, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and American Cancer Society work to his credit. Of course, we know about everything he’s achieved in his life—including the creation of the skyhook—but what does he know about the cha-cha?
Abdul-Jabbar had little doubt that he could compete once he received the call, and he took some time away from the salsa to talk to The Crossover about Dancing with the Stars, the NBA playoffs and the historic run of LeBron James.
DeAntae Prince: So first question: Did you get the call? Are you a fan of the show and decided to seek them out?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: They called me. They contacted my agent and she asked me if I wanted to do it and I said, ‘Yes,’ and she was surprised. But I always felt that maybe I could do this. I had watched Emmitt Smith and Derek Fisher compete and kind of rooted for them so I figured maybe I’d try it myself.
DP: That actually leads to one of my questions. Athletes often win this because of the footwork element. Do you feel like you have a shot based on that?
KAJ: Well, you know, just being agile and having to be quick and consistent in my movement I think gives me an idea that maybe I could do it, but you know the proof is always in the pudding.
DP: How much dance experience do you have? Do you remember some old moves from Harlem? Pick up any disco in LA in the 70s?
KAJ: Combination. You know, growing up in New York you pick up any number of types of dances—Latin, R&B, MoTown. So I’ve always been into the music and this was natural progression.
Complete article at SportsIllustrated.com
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