I’m Not Comfortable Being Preachy, But More People Have To Start Spending As Much Time in the Library As They Do On the Basketball Court

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote investigator: A prominent professional basketball player once shared a bracing insight. Only a relatively tiny number of people are able to advance to the U.S. National Basketball Association (NBA). Hoping to become an NBA player is rarely a practical goal. Hence, one should place an emphasis on education and spend time in the library.

Would you please help me to determine when this was said and who said it?

Quote investigator: In 1990 top athlete Kareem Abdul-Jabbar published the autobiography “Kareem”, and he offered the following advice. Boldface added to excerpts: 1

The NBA isn’t a realistic hope for most people. I’m not comfortable being preachy, but more people have to start spending as much time in the library as they do on the basketball court. If they took to the idea that they could escape poverty through education, I think it would make a more basic and long-lasting change in the way things happen.

The passage continued by highlighting the value of attainable goals:

When we set up unrealistic goals and then don’t achieve them, that’s another example of internalized defeat. What we need are positive, realistic ideas and the willingness to work.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In May 1990 the book reviewer of “The Palm Beach Post” examined “Kareem” and found the quotation intriguing; hence, it was reprinted in the newspaper. 2

In 1995 the quotation appeared in “Words to Make My Dream Children Live: A Book of African American Quotations”. 3

In 1999 “Quotations for Kids compiled and Edited by J. A. Senn included the following entry: 4

[M]ore people have to start spending as much time in the library as they do on the basketball court. If they took the idea that they could escape poverty through education, I think it would make a more basic and long-lasting change in the way things are done.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, US professional basketball player,
Kareem (NF)

In conclusion, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar should receive credit for the passage he wrote in his 1990 autobiography “Kareem”.

(Great thanks to “Barton Funk” whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)

Notes:

  1. 1990, Kareem by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Mignon McCarthy, Chapter 3: The Season: Life in the Salt Mines, Date: January 16, Quote Page 157, Random House, New York. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1990 May 20, The Palm Beach Post, Kareem’ gives reader more than jock’s autobiography by Tom Blackburn (Palm Beach Post Books Editor), Quote Page 3L, Column 5, West Palm Beach, Florida. (Newspapers_com)
  3. 1995, Words to Make My Dream Children Live: A Book of African American Quotations, Edited by Deirdre Mullane, Entry: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Quote Page 5, Anchor Books: Doubleday, New York. (Verified with scans)
  4. 1999, Quotations for Kids, Compiled and Edited by J. A. Senn, Topic: Education, Quote Page 68, The Millbrook Press, Brookfield, Connecticut. (Verified with scans)