Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is not mentioned nearly as much as he should be when it comes to the GOAT debate. Despite matching Michael Jordan for accolades, fans often overlook Kareem when it comes to discussions about the greatest of all time.
Kareem entered the league in 1969, joining the Milwaukee Bucks after an incredible stint at UCLA. Within 2 seasons, he was able to lead the Bucks to their first NBA Championship.
By 1975, Kareem had become an MVP, but wanted to join the Lakers, and did so. With the Lakers, Kareem went on to win 5 more NBA championships and retired as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.
One of Kareem’s biggest competitors during his era was ‘Dr. J’ Julius Erving. Erving was supposed to join the Milwaukee Bucks, meaning he would have joined Kareem and Oscar Robertson in Milwaukee. But a muddy contract situation meant that he had to play in the ABA.
Erving was originally with the Virginia Squires, before moving to the New York Nets. But when they were invited to the NBA, a series of decisions surrounding Erving’s salary led to him joining the Philadelphia 76ers.
With the 76ers, Erving steadily improved and helped them reach the NBA Finals. Each time that Erving and the 76ers reached the NBA Finals, they were met by Kareem and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers took the first 2 series wins in 1980 and 1982, thanks to a young Magic Johnson’s incredible play. With their wins in these series, Magic Johnson had won 2 Finals MVPs by age 22. And Kareem had the edge over Erving in their head-to-head matchups.
But ‘Dr. J’ finally got his own, after finding a star center teammate in Moses Malone. The 76ers swept the Lakers in the 1983 NBA Finals to win the championship, allowing Erving to get his own against Kareem.
But these two players went at it even after their careers were over. In 1992, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Julius Erving, deep into retirement, decided to play an exhibition 1 vs. 1 game against each other dubbed ‘Clash Of The Legends’.
Despite having not played for years at that point, both players gave it their all, with Dr. J even dunking on Kareem at one point. But Abdul-Jabbar, much like their rivalry in the NBA, got the better of Dr. J in the exhibition game, winning despite being older than his rival.
While the contest was by no means a flashy display of their greatness, it showed how competitive the two legends could be even years after walking away from the game.
It was a sight to behold watching these legends lace up their shoes once again for a friendly game. While it may have been dubbed an exhibition, it was extremely important to both these competitive legends.