The Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s created one of the biggest dynasties in NBA history, winning five NBA Championships with great players like Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and one of the best coaches ever in Pat Riley.
Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, played 20 NBA seasons with the last 14 coming with the Lakers. In 20 seasons he played with a number of teammates, and for a few different head coaches, but Abdul-Jabbar recently said which were his favorite.
In a recent interview with Maria Karvouni of Sportskeeda, Abdul-Jabbar said that James Worthy was his favorite teammate, and it is not necessarily for reasons on the court:
James Worthy and I got along very well both on and off the court. Like me, he was a big fan of jazz and we would talk about jazz musicians as much as we did about NBA players. He also shared my interest in black culture and history. I’d give him books about black history during the Civil War and other time periods and we’d talk about them, too.
On the court, James had an uncanny ability to anticipate when we were about to snag a rebound and bolt down the court. He was the fastest guy in the league and it was fun to watch players get frustrated trying to catch up to him.
For similar reasons, he pegged Paul Westhead, not Riley, as his favorite coach:
Paul Westhead was my favourite coach because he taught Shakespeare and I was an enthusiastic fan of Shakespeare. We would sometimes discuss Bard’s plays and I benefited from his extensive knowledge. He also amused us by comparing the team to characters in Shakespeare’s plays. He compared me to Othello because I was an effective leader but misunderstood by others. He thought Magic was like Falstaff because he enjoyed life with such gusto.
Abdul-Jabbar and Worthy were teammates on the Lakers from 1982-89 and won four championships rings together while starting in the front court.
Westhead, who was succeeded by Riley, served the head coach of the Lakers from 1979-81, winning an NBA Championship in 1980, the second Championship of Abdul-Jabbar’s career.
Abdul-Jabbar has always been a deep individual, involved in many things other than basketball such as the Civil Rights Movement. He recently received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest honor that a civilian can receive.