The six-time NBA champion, Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and civil rights icon spoke with Yahoo Sports senior NBA writer Vincent Goodwill about the NBA’s upcoming list of 75 greatest players.
VINCENT GOODWILL: We got the 75th anniversary for the NBA coming up. There was a 50 list that came out in 1996, 97. With the 75 list that's coming out, do you feel like the league should start from scratch and make the top 75 greatest players or do you think they should have added on to the 50 that were announced in 1996?
KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR: That's so difficult because there's so many people that didn't see-- they didn't see George Mikan.
VINCENT GOODWILL: Right.
KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR: They didn't see Sweetwater Clifton, so they can't grasp what they meant to the game. And I think that's the difficult part. And the way they do it, I think they should just make sure it's done with taste and an understanding of just perspective being so much. I've seen this thing where they showed where Kobe got the most points in Madison Square Garden. Well this Garden, but in the Garden before that, Elgin Baylor got 72 against the Knicks in October of 1960. OK? A lot of guys weren't born, so it's difficult to do that. So I'm hoping that they figure a way to do it and they're fair to all the generations
VINCENT GOODWILL: It's hard to contextualize history, especially the game is different now.
KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR: Yeah.
VINCENT GOODWILL: The center used to be the most important position on the floor, especially when you played. That's why if someone says Kareem is the greatest player of all time I have no argument. Because you were the greatest player during the time where the center was the most important and you dominated that. That position has become sort of marginalized. Does that make you sad a little bit that the center is no longer the marquee spot that sort of everything gravitates around?
KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR: I think the game has evolved and the center is still crucial but in a different way. The game has evolved. And I don't have any problem with people having to take that into consideration.
VINCENT GOODWILL: But if you saw 6' 6" Draymond Green guarding you, what would you do?
KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR: I'd lick my chops. You know, there's still certain things that are true you know and this is still a big man's game. It'd be hard for Draymond to guard me, but Draymond knows that because it's hard him to guard Anthony Davis. So, there's no secrets out here.