The NBA legend offers rare glimpse at his interior life in new film
At the age of 68, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar may at last be coming into his own.
Yes, he's been a basketball great for the majority of his life, and one of America's most famous athletes. Yet, he never seemed quite comfortable in his skin during his playing career and even afterwards.
But as the new documentary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Minority of One demonstrates, he is finally learning to share a more personal side of himself with the public.
“I turned people off with my reticence about personal engagement," Abdul-Jabbar admits in the film, which debuts on HBO Tuesday night (10pm ET).
Abdul-Jabbar always struck me as awkward off the court, a sensitive and shy person who by virtue of his extraordinary height and exceptional talent could not escape attention. It's been a pleasure in recent years to see him come into his own, able to show warmth and to be less reticent with people. He's giving hope to shy people everywhere.
He's become a columnist for Time magazine, writing thoughtful pieces on the Republican Presidential contenders, for instance -- he characterized Donald Trump as spouting a "deep well of hate speech."
His column on Kim Davis, the Kentucky court clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, began this way: "The martyr business in America is booming. It’s a growth industry, like yoga pants, prisons and celebrity nip-slip sites. Caterers, cake-makers, pizza shops, hobby stores and others are publicly throwing themselves on the righteous sword of spiritual indignation—but only when there are media cameras nearby to record their stirring sacrifice."
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Minority of One features "incisive interviews and rare archival footage," HBO promises. Among those who offer their assessment of Kareem are his former NBA teammates and opponents including Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Jerry West, Bill Walton, Julius Irving and Larry Bird. Celebrity commentators include Billy Crystal, Quincy Jones, Arsenio Hall and scholar Dr. Cornel West.
"Kareem is looking forward to finally sharing his journey with the fans," Deborah Morales, who produced the film. said in a news release provided by HBO. "Kareem waited more than 20 years to tell his story and we're delighted to present it on the HBO platform." Watch a preview here.
The film will be available on HBO Now and HBO Go following its Tuesday night premiere.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.