Lew Alcindor / Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
NCAA Final, Freedom Hall, Louisville, Kentucky, March 25, 1967

I took this picture of UCLA's brilliant sophomore center Lew Alcindor (later to become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) during the Bruins' 1967 NCAA Championship Game against Dayton. I was sure that Alcindor was going to dominate the boards and win every battle close to the hoop, so I mounted a remote-controlled camera behind the glass backboard, a technique which is commonplace today, but which had never before been permitted at an NCAA final. I think this picture shows exactly why Coach John Wooden's Bruins easily defeated Dayton to complete a 30-0 season and win the title. The big star of the game was, of course Alcindor, just like I expected. Alcindor's success came as no surprise to anybody who was a New York sports fan in the 1960s, as I was. At Power Memorial High School, Alcindor's three varsity seasons had produced a 71-game winning streak and three city championships. His UCLA freshman team beat the Bruins varsity--the reigning NCAA champions--by 15 points, and his own varsity teams went 88-2 over three seasons, winning the title each year. He captured six NBA titles, one with the Milwaukee Bucks and five with the Los Angeles Lakers. We refer to great sports heroes as "superstars", and being called a "superstar" is no small accomplishment. But there's another title that only a handful of sports stars qualify for: "winner," which I think is the ultimate accolade. Bart Starr, Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, and Michael Jordan were winners, but for my money, Alcindor would have to be right at the top of anybody's alltime list. He always won--anywhere and anytime that he happened to play.


The Best of Leifer
The Best of Leifer

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