One of the many mysteries surrounding Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the inability to stop his skyhook.
Opponents struggled to defend his patented shot and Abdul-Jabbar went on to become the NBA's all-time leading scorer with 38,387 career points. Though that particular mystery went unsolved, Abdul-Jabbar is hoping to shed some light on others that pertain to him.
"I figured that there are a whole lot of questions about my life that really everybody is still in the dark about," Abdul-Jabbar said in a phone interview with Newsday on Tuesday. "I didn't want to go to my grave as a mystery man."
Abdul-Jabbar, 68, agreed to tell his story in the documentary "Kareem: Minority of One," which will air on HBO on Nov. 3.
Shortly after winning the NBA championship with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971, Abdul-Jabbar converted to Islam and changed his name from Lew Alcindor. In 1974, he requested a trade to a more diverse market and was dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers, with whom he won five more championships.
Abdul-Jabbar had an often cantankerous relationship with the media and fans throughout his 20-year career, during which he took controversial stands on cultural and political issues. He was asked what viewers will learn, and which mysteries will be solved, in the documentary.
"Just the motivation for a lot of the stances that I took," said Abdul-Jabbar, who attended a premiere of the documentary in Manhattan on Monday night. "Sometimes people would question me as to my motives, and not speaking about it publicly really just maintained the mystery. So I wanted to clear the air on so many of the instances that people bring up when they talk about my life."
Abdul-Jabbar, a native of New York City, will also be making an appearance at MIST in Harlem on Wednesday to sign copies of his new book, "Mycroft Holmes," which was released on Sept. 22. It's the first novel written by Abdul-Jabbar, author of 10 books. The book, which was co-written with Anna Waterhouse and published by Titan Books, portrays the early life of Sherlock Holmes' older brother, Mycroft.
"Fiction is a real challenge for most writers," said Abdul-Jabbar, who has also written autobiographies and historical books. "They can write the facts down but telling a good story and having it be received well is a much greater challenge. That's really what kept me from attempting this a lot earlier in my life. But it seems I should have started earlier because the reception for this book has been pretty favorable."
Abdul-Jabbar said he was given a set of Sherlock Holmes' stories in 1969 and brought them on his first road trip in the NBA. He became fascinated and said the books made him a better basketball player by developing a very keen power of observation.
With the NBA season beginning on Tuesday, Abdul-Jabbar, a six-time MVP, was asked if he is surprised that the league has moved away from traditional centers and into a small-ball era.
"I think there are trends, but any really tall player has an advantage on the basketball court and that's not ever going to change," he said. "The style of play might go through a whole lot of different trials, right now people are saying that small ball is the way to go. If you have a dominant player that is 7-feet tall, he is going to wreak havoc on the little guys. That's always been the case and that's not going to change."
Abdul-Jabbar said he doesn't get to watch the Knicks often but knows they are going through a transitional phase under Phil Jackson.
"They have another Hall of Famer in waiting in Carmelo [Anthony]," he said. "They have some good guys on the team. Getting the right combination is a tricky thing to do. When you get it right, you have to stick with what you're doing right. You have to wait and see what happens with the new players."
Until then, it's a mystery.