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  • Little, Brown Young Readers US

Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Raymond Obstfeld

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Autobiography: sport, Basketball

The first memoir for young readers by the sports legend explores his path from his days as a shy boy named Lew Alcindor to becoming Kareem...

In his first memoir written especially for young readers, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will focus on his relationships with several important coaches in his life - including his father, his high-school coach and Coach Wooden - as he tells the story of his life and career.

Like many kids in elementary school, Kareem (then Lew Alcindor) struggled with fitting in, pleasing a strict father, and severe shyness that made him socially awkward. Unlike most kids, he also had to grapple with a sudden growth spurt that shot him up taller than pretty much everyone around him, including students, teachers, and even his own father. His increasing fame as a basketball player throughout high school brought new challenges as this shy boy was shoved into the national spotlight. At the same time, social unrest in the country, particularly involving the growing civil rights movement, tugged at his conscience as he tried to find his place in it. After all, he was just a kid. What could he do?

Recruited to UCLA, his fame as an unstoppable center made him a college superstar. But as his fame rose, so did the social turmoil in the country: Vietnam War protests, Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., large-scale riots, the Women's Movement. He could have hidden from all the turmoil as a sports celebrity, but he chose to join in the social evolution. The result was converting to Islam and changing his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The public backlash was blistering, but he didn't waver.

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