The woman pictured above is Denise Milani
. I didn't merely put this picture up to show off her...huge tracts of land. I was, for the most part, making the point that Kareem does pose for the occasional picture. He simply has, uhm, standards.
Back in the summer of 2000, I had the misfortune of sharing a flight out of Chicago with Rick "The Boston Strangler" Pitino. I should note, for historical purposes, that this occurred only a few months after his infamous (and exceedingly bitter) "Larry Bird is not walking through that door" speech
. As a long-time Celtics fan, his very existence was (and, in many ways, still is) anathema to me. With Boston's 35-47 season fresh on my mind, my basketball mood was grim
. (That mood was not helped by the fact that my "other" team, the Pacers, had just lost to my most hated team, the Lakers, in the NBA Finals.)
Pitino, naturally, was in first class. I, however, was not. Thus I got the chance to walk directly past him on my way to the dreaded back of the plane (which is almost invariably filled with seat-busting pork monsters and angry, screaming babies). I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that I was unable to prevent myself from blasting him with a "Thanks for destroying the Celtics, Rick
In retrospect, I wish I hasn't done that. Not because I was wrong or anything; Pitino most certainly ruined the Celtics during his tenure as President and Coach of the team. But it's unspeakably rude and unnecessary to harrass famous people during their private lives. I wouldn't want, for instance, to have somebody who follows this site to accost me on the street and tell me off for saying Kobe Bryant is a douchebag. I much prefer the anti-me statements to be limited to comments on this site and the occasional letter bomb.
Anyway, I'm way off the point here. I got to thinking about the Pitino story after a regular reader, bobgarz, sent me the following email:
So on the 21st of August, I was on a flight from Hong Kong to L.A., L.A. to Boston. On my second flight (and thankfully not wearing my Beat LA t-shirt) who do I see but the legendary Kareem Abdul Jabbar!
Wait a minute...
Ok, so as if seeing a 7 -footer in a tiny airline seat wasn't awkward enough, Kareem was staring people down and ignoring cheers from the L.A. crowd telling him what a legend he is. Further, as he was sitting at the first seat in economy and next to the bathroom, the stewardess announces that that bathroom has to be "shut down." Kareem sure doesn't want his company today.
Upon arrival, at the baggage claim I watch as Kareem rejects photography with myself, two very pretty LA-ites and a poor Asian kid and his girlfriend. But whatever, seeing him in person was cool enough. I grab my baggage and head to the taxi stand. Kareem is walking in front of me. But he doesn't go to the Hummer, doesn't go to the limo, doesn't even go to the taxi stand, but instead walks onto the Budget Bus.
Now I'm sure there's a logical explanation, but watching a generally nice Hall of Famer look depressed in a dirty (very dirty) blue NBA track suit sitting on economy and a budget bus has to make me wonder.
Even my cab driver went "Was that Kareem? Why the hell is he on a bus?"
Must be bad times indeed for Kareem.
An odd story, to be sure, but maybe not as strange as it seems. Many people don't realize this, but Kareem has had his fair share of crippling financial problems
. In 1980, he lost "large sums of money" due to a particularly nasty divorce and "his own and his women friends' extravagances." In 1983, his Bel Air mansion burned to the ground, taking much of the $13 million in salary he had earned during his career with it. Then, in the mid-80s, Kareem's business manager, Tom Collins, abused his power of attorney to take out some $9 million in loans in Kareem's name. He had also used Kareem's money to pay other clients and lost many more millions of Kareem's cash "in a web of investments so complex and damaging that a team of Bushkin lawyers had spent months trying to extricate [Kareem]." Kareem's lawyers eventually sued Collins (among others) to recover damages which they said totaled $59 million. Ouch.Here's just one example of Collins' chicanery
"In 1984 and '85 Collins put together several limited partnerships involving his clients. One investment, according to court documents, was in a product called Heavyrope, a weighted jump rope that was manufactured by a small firm in Michigan. Collins put up $230,000 of Abdul-Jabbar's money, plus $145,000 of [Ralph] Sampson's, $120,000 of [Alex] English's and $60,000 of [Terry] Cummings', and led Abdul-Jabbar to believe that he would own an interest in the manufacture of Heavyrope and its distribution rights. One night in the summer of '85 he had dinner with Charlie Scott, the former NBA guard who was also a Collins client and another Heavyrope partner. Scott had gone with Collins to meet the manufacturers in Michigan and now, according to Abdul-Jabbar, Scott told him, 'We don't own the patent. We don't own anything. We have a very weak license.'"
And, believe it or not, Alex English sued Kareem for $150,000 because of the whole mess
. That's how bad it got. Now, at that time, Kareem's Bushkin lawyer Leonard Armato said: "The idea that Kareem is broke and desperate for money is a fiction." Still...those kinds of losses can't be easy to recover from.
It's not like Kareem has been sitting on his hands since all that happened. He's worked as an assistant for the Los Angeles Clippers and the Seattle SuperSonics, and most recently for the Lakers, as a special assistant to Phil Jackson (to work with Andrew Bynum). He also spent time blogging for the Los Angeles Times
, and he has authored several books
. So we know, at the very least, that he's been employed. It's possible that he doesn't make much, and it's also possible that he simply lives a frugal lifestyle because of the difficult lessons he learned. Whatever the case, it is, nonetheless, obvious he isn't rolling around in Kobe Bryant money. Or even, it would seem, Josh Childress money.
Labels: fan submissions, financial problems, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar