Arguably the greatest coach in American college basketball history, John Wooden, passed away on June 4th at the age of 99. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played for coach Wooden for three seasons from 1966 to 1969. Abdul-Jabbar reflected on the passing of coach Wooden on his personal website, kareemabduljabar.com.
â€œItâ€™s very difficult for me to put in perspective what it means for me to lose Coach Wooden. He has been such a constant in my life. Just thinking of him enables me to draw upon the many life lessons that he taught me when I was a student at UCLA. Even though I was not initially aware that I was being taught certain things, they became obvious as the events of my life unfolded. It is hard to describe greatness in words but the accomplishments and lasting legacy of Coach Woodenâ€™s life are a formidable reminder of a life well lived. Coach Wooden never acted any different whether we were at practice or winning championships. My first championship with Coach was his third and I donâ€™t think the tremendous success he was achieving mattered to him as much as what he was sharing with his players about hard work and consistency. Our objective was always to be at our best and we would see how far that would take us. Coach Wooden was the best mentor I have ever had and I will miss him dearly!â€
Abdul-Jabbar played on three championship teams for coach Wooden. And he of course went on to a storied National Basketball career from 1969 to 1989. When he was through with his professional career he had scored more points than any other player in league history and had won a record six Most Valuable Player awards and six NBA titles. Yet, despite all the coaches that he played for professionally, Abdul-Jabbar credits his college coach, John Wooden, with making him the player that he was.