Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Explains How Bruce Lee Helped Him Play at High Level During Lengthy Career

Brad Sullivan
2 Min Read

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.

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Brad is a freelance writer for LakersDaily.com, who can clearly recall watching Lakers games in 1972 as they captured the first of their 11 Los Angeles-based titles. The franchise's evolution into a beloved and iconic franchise among its fan base since that memorable year allows for a wider perspective to be a part of his writing about the team's current fortunes.