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Abdul-Jabbar excites and offends audience

By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor

"I don't think the two [records] are equal. That's why they have women's sports," said NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Friday afternoon, when asked by Hofstra women's basketball player Aamira Terry how he felt after the UConn women's basketball team broke his UCLA team's streak of 88 consecutive wins.


The basketball legend visited Hofstra to promote his new documentary, "On the Shoulders of Giants" and discuss the significance of the Harlem Renaissance (a.k.a. Rens), an African-American basketball team that proved to a nation that anyone can compete in professional sports.


"It means a lot to me," said Abdul-Jabbar. "I always felt…that  [the Rens team] was neglected in the history books...A lot of black kids don't understand what black people have given to America, so having a chance to raise that kind of awareness makes me feel good."


After being introduced by Hofstra women's basketball forward Shante Evans, Abdul-Jabbar spoke to students at the John C. Adams Playhouse where he not only stressed the importance of equality, but also academics.


"Not only do you have academic potential, but you also have intellectual potential as well," said Abdul-Jabbar. "And you have to take advantage of that."


It was after this short lecture that the floor was opened up for questions, where Abdul-Jabbar's answer to Terry's question raised some eyebrows.


"We were pretty surprised at what he said," stated women's basketball head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey. "But after that I haven't put much stock into it."


"I was shocked at just how blunt he was," said sophomore Kevin Rafuse, who attended the conference. "With all the debate about the [NCAA winning] streak, it was surprising to see someone of his stature come out and say that."


"The University does not always share the point of view of each speaker," read a press release from Vice President of University Relations Melissa Connolly. "But we respect their right to speak and value the opportunity it gives our students to question them."


Later in the evening, Abdul-Jabbar headlined a banquet to discuss the Rens and African-American culture, held in a decorated Student Center cafeteria that transported guests, from deans to athletes, back to 1935 with authentic music, fashion and food.


Hofstra guard Charles Jenkins introduced Abdul-Jabbar at the banquet.


"We talked about hoops, and the history of it," said Abdul-Jabbar. "The Harlem Renaissance is an important aspect of American history. To this day the 1920s is known as the jwazz age so all of that, I think, is relevant now."


"I think it was very successful," said Director of University Relations Ginny Greenberg of the entire conference. "It was nice to see such a nice turnout from the campus community."

NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar addresses the crowd after being introduced by Shante Evans (seated). (Sean M. Gates/The Chronicle)

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