In a new interview, Los Angeles Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar offered insight into the role that Bruce Lee played in allowing Abdul-Jabbar to play 20 NBA seasons.
Lee, a martial arts icon, died at the age of 32 in 1973 and is the subject of an ESPN documentary that will be broadcast on Sunday night.
The 73-year-old Abdul-Jabbar was interviewed on Friday and explained (at the 2:45 mark) how Lee was so instrumental in helping him play until 1989.
“Bruce always emphasized the effectiveness of stretching,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “So before we worked out we stretched all the time. And that was it. I took that to another level by studying yoga and being able to advance as a yoga student, and that really was the best preventative maintenance that I could have been doing in the offseason.”
During Abdul-Jabbar’s historic career, he became the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, and was one of the more durable players of his era. He played in a total of 1,560 regular-season contests and never played fewer than 62 games in a season.
Abdul-Jabbar played at UCLA when Lee was acting in Hollywood, with Lee’s greatest fame coming with his martial arts-based movies in the 1970s.
One of the films released after Lee’s death was 1978’s “Game of Death,” in which Lee and Abdul-Jabbar engaged in an onscreen fight.
Exactly how long Abdul-Jabbar would have lasted with Lee’s aid is debatable. However, it’s clear that nearly 50 years after his death, Lee played a role in aiding the Lakers’ “Showtime” teams of the 1980s.