Coach Wooden and me Our 50-year friendship on and off the court

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1947-

Book - 2017

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New York : Grand Central Publishing 2017.
First edition
Item Description
Includes index.
Physical Description
290 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Main Author
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1947- (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* John Wooden recruited Lew Alcindor (as Abdul-Jabbar was then known) in the mid-sixties to play basketball at UCLA. On the surface, it was an odd match. Abdul-Jabbar was a seven-foot-tall, black, jazz-loving city kid with a growing social consciousness. Wooden was a product of rural Indiana, short of six feet, with a penchant for big-band swing and a moral compass that was forged by traditional conservative values. Initially, the relationship was the one you'd expect from a player and his coach, but it deepened over time, as Abdul-Jabbar recounts in this moving memoir. When Abdul-Jabbar was traded from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Los Angeles Lakers, he reestablished contact with his former coach, eventually attending UCLA games together or watching westerns on a small television in Wooden's memorabilia-stuffed den. On the surface, this curious pair was very different, but they came together on a variety of fronts, including civil rights, about which Abdul-Jabbar, the activist, and Wooden, the conservative, found much to discuss and ultimately agree upon. As age began to take its toll on Wooden, the relationship deepened still further. There is an incredibly moving passage toward the end of the book in which Abdul-Jabbar and a very frail Wooden are leaving a UCLA game, and Wooden subtly slips his hand in his friend's for support. Abdul-Jabbar and Wooden shared a priceless friendship, and this sensitive, sharply written account brings it to full, vivid life. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Sports great and New York Times best-selling author Abdul-Jabbar gets us where it counts by recalling his half-century friendship with Coach John Wooden. With a 100,000-copy first printing. Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In his latest work, NBA champion and author Abdul-Jabbar (Writings on the Wall; On the Shoulders of Giants) relates his 50-year relationship with UCLA coach and Hall of Famer John Wooden (1910–2010). Wooden's philosophy of teamwork and preparation led UCLA to win ten NCAA championships, including three with Abdul-Jabbar between 1967 and 1969. Here, the author describes the structured practices at the university, where Wooden even taught his freshman players how to properly tie their shoe. Beyond basketball, the heart of this memoir is private moments between Wooden and Abdul-Jabbar, such as a Thanksgiving dinner, conversations about Muhammad Ali or jazz, or a prayer said at Wooden's deathbed. Abdul-Jabbar does not shy away from how race and religion have impacted his life, including racist slurs leveled by opponents and fans. He explains why he changed his name, converted to Islam, and opposed attending the 1968 Olympics, while also reflecting on how the death of loved ones and the shared experience of grief strengthened the bond between player and coach. VERDICT This stunning eulogy will appeal to readers far beyond the confines of sports. Highly recommended.—Chris Wilkes, Tazewell Cty. P.L., VA Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Anyone inclined to dismiss John Wooden and Abdul-Jabbar's relationship as merely coach and player— Abdul-Jabbar led Wooden's basketball teams at UCLA to three NCAA titles in the late 1960s—will rethink that miscalculation after reading this compact, engaging memoir. The two men remained close until Wooden's death at age 99 in 2010, Abdul-Jabbar writes: "Our friendship grew over shared values, over complicated loves and devastating losses, over a never truly satisfied search for understanding of this world and our place in it." Abdul-Jabbar discusses his own intellectual and spiritual growth, interweaving the lessons Wooden conveyed to him over the years. He shrewdly removes any mysticism from the famous friendship, showing Wooden as more than a "Pyramid of Success" figurehead. At Wooden's memorial service, Abdul-Jabbar recalls, "we all spoke about the lessons we learned from him rather than the games we had won." (May) Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A Basketball Hall of Famer explores his 50-year friendship with Coach John Wooden, one of the most enduring and meaningful relationships in sports history. 100,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The legendary basketball player explores his fifty-year friendship with Coach John Wooden, one of the most enduring and meaningful relationships in sports history.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Former NBA star and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Kareem Abdul-Jabbar explores his 50-year friendship with Coach John Wooden, one of the most enduring and meaningful relationships in sports history. When future NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was still an 18-year-old high school basketball prospect from New York City named Lew Alcindor, he accepted a scholarship from UCLA largely on the strength of Coach John Wooden's reputation as a winner. It turned out to be the right choice, as Alcindor and his teammates won an unprecedented three NCAA championship titles. But it also marked the beginning of one of the most extraordinary and enduring friendships in the history of sports. In Coach Wooden and Me, Abdul-Jabbar reveals the inspirational story of how his bond with John Wooden evolved from a history-making coach-player mentorship into a deep and genuine friendship that transcended sports, shaped the course of both men's lives, and lasted for half a century.Coach Wooden and Me is a stirring tribute to the subtle but profound influence that Wooden had on Kareem as a player, and then as a person, as they began to share their cultural, religious, and family values while facing some of life's biggest obstacles. From his first day of practice, when the players were taught the importance of putting on their athletic socks properly; to gradually absorbing the sublime wisdom of Coach Wooden's now famous "Pyramid of Success"; to learning to cope with the ugly racism that confronted black athletes during the turbulent Civil Rights era as well as losing loved ones, Abdul-Jabbar fondly recalls how Coach Wooden's fatherly guidance not only paved the way for his unmatched professional success but also made possible a lifetime of personal fulfillment. Full of intimate, never-before-published details and delivered with the warmth and erudition of a grateful student who has learned his lessons well, Coach Wooden and Me is at once a celebration of the unique philosophical outlook of college basketball's most storied coach and a moving testament to the all-conquering power of friendship. Instant New York Times and USA Today Bestseller President Barack Obama's Favorite Book of 2017 A Boston Globe and Huffington Post Best Book of 2017 Pick