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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Ignorance Vs. Reason in the War on Education

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is expected to make a full recovery after undergoing quadruple coronary bypass surgery. (Scott Roth/Invision/AP Photo)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Scott Roth/Invision/AP Photo)

(Time) – When I started playing basketball as a freshman at UCLA, coach John Wooden told us a bunch of crazy ideas about useless drills we should do and half-baked plays we should run. Naturally, because I had just graduated from high school, I immediately knew that his unfamiliar methods were silly — possibly even unpatriotic — so I refused to follow the ridiculous directives. I suggested we start every practice by sitting in a circle discussing our favorite jazz musicians, leading to a group hug and affirmations that we were special to the universe. Coach Wooden later thanked me, tears in his eyes, for making him a better coach — and a better human being. The rest is basketball history.

Yeah, right.

If I had actually refused to follow the coach’s plan, the next day I’d have been stocking the high shelves at the pet store asking, “Are you sure five pounds of kitty litter is enough, ma’am? Don’t forget our lovely assortment of chew toys.” And rightfully so, because, despite having been one of the top high school basketball players in the country, what did I know about playing on the next level? Or, for that matter, the next level of history, math and English? I had to rely on experts.

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