After LeBron James Broke His Scoring Record, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Dropped Thoughts On Why He’d Could’ve Played Longer In Today’s NBA

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Kareem: Minority of One
(Image credit: HBO Films)

It took nearly 40 years for it to happen, but someone finally broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s scoring record. LeBron James managed to accomplish the monumental task, surpassing the basketball great’s 38,387-benchmark just a few weeks ago. Abdul-Jabbar was incredibly gracious about the major sports moment, presenting James with a ball and making a speech in his honor. Though his record has been surpassed, the former Los Angeles Lakers big man still stands among the NBA’s GOATs. The cerebral athlete and activist had quite a career, but he actually believes he could’ve played longer had he been in today’s basketball league. 

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is lauded as a basketball player for a number of reasons, with one of the biggest being his longevity. He played 20 stellar seasons in the NBA, during which he earned six championships, 6 MVP awards, the previously mentioned scoring record and more. So it may be surprising to hear that the 19-time all-star believes he could’ve played even longer and been more effective. He made this argument during an interview with ClutchPoints and explained the logic behind it:

I didn’t even get to ride in airplanes. I mean, charter planes, you know? We had to get up at six and five o’clock and go take a commercial flight. Man, these guys don’t know how well they’re treated, you know? It’s a big difference now. It’s just that I know now that I can see since I retired that if we had flown in charter jets, I could’ve played a couple more years and played well. … I think that was the toughest thing to deal with, you know, just the grind of the schedule and having to get those early morning flights.

The basketball legend appears to believe that a higher emphasis on “load management” and player care has contributed to NBA stars having longer careers. Some may not see how an aircraft may directly affect a player’s performance, but it’s actually quite straightforward. Chartered flights, while still scheduled, don’t necessarily require that a person get up incredibly early in the morning. If you’re an athlete, that theoretically gives you more time to rest. Also, as the Airplane! alum would also mention during the interview, it can be uncomfortable for large men like himself to squeeze into the seating provided by commercial flights. You can see his interview in its entirety below: 

It’s also fascinating to hear Kareem Abdul-Jabbar share anecdotes about the game of basketball and all things related to it. He’s dropped keen thoughts on the feud between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal during their Laker days and divulged some details about his own relationship with former teammate Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Additionally, Abdul-Jabbar is a pop culture junkie, who doesn’t mind sharing honest thoughts on Avatar: The Way of Water or even Stranger Things Season 4, which had gripes about. (And don’t even get me started on the brutally honest feelings he has about HBO’s Winning Time.)

Though he’s carved out a niche for himself as a respected media pundit, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will firmly be remembered for being a basketball player – and one of the NBA’s most durable ones at that. Even though he believes he’d have had a longer playing career with today’s amenities, I still say a number of today’s competitors could still learn a thing or two from him when it comes to staying healthy. After all, you have to be physically fit and mentally sound in order to score over 38,000 points.

You can learn more about the sports giant by streaming Kareem: Minority of One using an HBO Max subscription.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Erik Swann is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He began working with the publication in 2020 when he was hired as Weekend Editor. Today, he continues to write, edit and handle social media responsibilities over the weekend. On weekdays, he also writes TV and movie-related news and helps out with editing and social media as needed. He graduated from the University of Maryland, where he received a degree in Broadcast Journalism. After shifting into multi-platform journalism, he started working as a freelance writer and editor before joining CB. Covers superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. He eats more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.