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Best Milwaukee Bucks Draft Picks: Number 2, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Getting a Closer Look at Kareem’s Career, and What Could Have Been

2021 NBA Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v Milwaukee Bucks
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with teammate Oscar Robertson

Hi Bucks’ fans! Welcome to the all-time top Bucks’ draft picks, power ranked by the fan’s yourselves. We are counting down all the way from #12 to #1, and today we are moving on to one of the greatest players in NBA history and the main man behind the 1971 NBA title, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.


THE SELECTION

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor) was selected first overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1969 NBA Draft. According to basketball reference, not only is Kareem first in win-shares in his class, but he is still first out of everybody in win-shares. Maybe LeBron James catches him, but for now, he’s first.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

Nineteen time All-Star out of 20 seasons, from which there appeared to be an injury-plagued 77-78 season that caused him to miss it. He’s the all-time scoring leader in NBA history, for now, since LeBron will force his way there. He’s a six-time NBA Champion, five with the Lakers and one with the Bucks. Also, he’s in the 1995 Hall of Fame class, averaged over 11 rebounds per game through 20 years, including a double-double in his first 12. He also averaged over 2.6 blocks per game (stat wasn’t counted until his fifth season). Shall I continue?

His similarity scores are close to Wilt Chamberlain, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Moses Malone, and Bill Russell.

CAREER SUCCESS AND “WHAT-IF’S”

Kareem held almost every single Bucks’ record until Giannis broke them for almost 50 years and likely still holds many. That’s super impressive. And not to make light of what Giannis has done as a Buck, but Kareem did it in six of the most dominant seasons in NBA history, whereas it took Giannis longer. Kareem was much more seasoned than Giannis, coming out of UCLA and the John Wooden era, but overall it doesn’t overshadow him being one of the greatest of all-time. You don’t get similarity scores with Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, etc. for nothing.

Now, not everything was fine and dandy because of Kareem. After losing the NBA Finals to Boston in 1974, Kareem wanted out of Milwaukee and the Bucks obliged. This brought back players like Brian Winters and Junior Bridgeman, both who are in the rafters at Fiserv Forum. But, the Bucks went 50 years without a title, so as good as the return was for Kareem, you can’t match it. Not only that, but Kareem stated that Milwaukee was not meeting his cultural needs and demanded the trade, being one of the first to notably do so. To make matters worse, the Lakers lucked into Magic Johnson four years later, and they went on to win five championships in the 80‘s.

I’ve stated this and I will again, this is not about stopping now and looking at what Giannis has done. Lets compare ages. Kareem got traded in the offseason he turned 28, Giannis is about 28 now. Giannis has played nine seasons, Kareem had played six. It took Giannis eight years to win a title, it took Kareem two. Kareem has better numbers overall than Giannis, and has outscored and outrebounded him in almost every season. When it comes to Bucks, Kareem has been better at this point, but I would say it’s arguable. When you add in the Lakers’ years, it’s not close.

Just a few more comparisons, Kareem still has one more MVP as a Buck than Giannis, and four more overall. Kareem is a 19-time All-Star, a two-time scoring champion, four-time block champion and one time rebounding champion. He had the most unguardable move in the history of the NBA with the sky hook. I love Giannis, but Kareem is one of the top three players in NBA history without question. We also don’t have as much to go on with Giannis yet, and two not so good seasons that bring his numbers down while he was still learning. I’m sorry; hopefully by the end of his career he’ll be much closer in my eyes for number one.

Now, what if Kareem stayed and never, ever left? Well, you look past 1974 and see some down years in the 70’s, that likely wouldn’t have been as bad with Kareem. You then get to the 1980’s, and see a bunch of 50+ win seasons led by coach Don Nelson. With all due respect to the likes of Bob Lanier, Alton Lister and Jack Sikma, they aren’t Kareem. Center might have even been the weakness of the 80’s Bucks, because, you’ve heard me list the names, the 80’s Bucks were stacked. We get back to the Finals in the 80’s for sure, and since the Lakers are on the other side (say they kept Junior Bridgeman and Brian Winters for arguments sake), they aren’t the same, even with Magic and James Worthy.

Poll

If They Had Kareem, How Many Championships Do the Bucks Win in the 80’s

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    0
    (4 votes)
  • 7%
    1
    (9 votes)
  • 43%
    2
    (56 votes)
  • 46%
    3+
    (59 votes)
128 votes total Vote Now

BUCKS’ LEGACY

Kareem held about every record until Giannis came along, and the comparisons likely belong together. Kareem and Giannis are icons, and we are so lucky to have both of them in our franchise. As I stated in my post before this series, more than 10 teams have never won a title. Kareem’s presence alone was enough to give us one. He’s matured over the years, and I believe he deserves statues outside of the stadium, because what he did means a lot for our city.


There you have it, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Stay tuned later for Julie’s personal rankings, and some comparison. Do you disagree with where Kareem is? Comment below