Lakers Legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Recalls Meeting Jackie Robinson
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Dodgers have a rich history that spans well over a century. Prior to moving to the West Coast in 1958, the organization called Brooklyn its home for seven-plus decades.

While stationed on the East Coast, the Dodgers were winners of 12 National League pennants and one World Series championship (1955). And though they shared the same city with the New York Yankees and New York Giants, the Dodgers still boasted a large and loyal fanbase.

During a recent appearance on “Dodger Talk” on AM 570 L.A. Sports, L.A. Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recalled growing up in New York City and falling in love with Brooklyn:

“Well, I can’t remember the day because I was born the day after Jackie Robinson played his first game. I got there one day late. … But that didn’t keep me from doing what I needed to do to listen to games on radio with my mom. My mom was a big fan. I went to see Negro League games down in North Carolina, where she was from.

“When they signed Jackie, she was really excited about that. I went to about two games at Ebbets Field and I saw Jackie Robinson steal second base. I watched him do his thing, and I’ll never forget it. Instead of watching the batter, I watched Jackie. He was great. I wanted to be him.”

Jackie Robinson enjoyed a 10-year Hall-of-Fame career with the Dodgers, making as big of an impact on the field as he did off it.

Getting to watch him play at Ebbets Field, Abdul-Jabbar remembered the time NBA great Bill Russell introduced him to Robinson at a restaurant:

“I met Jackie Robinson right after my rookie year in the NBA. I was voted Rookie of the Year and I went to a dinner at Mama Leone’s in New York. It was a restaurant where they used to have a lot of sports dinners and stuff. I was sitting at a table talking to Bill Russell, and Jackie Robinson just walked up to the table because he and Bill were close friends. So Bill introduced me to Jackie Robinson. I talked to him for a little while. … That was pretty special for me. I have a picture of it. A photographer came over and took a picture of the three of us together.”

Abdul-Jabbar’s journey to the NBA was reminiscent of the Dodgers’ to L.A. He played his high school ball in New York before switching coasts for college.

A successful three-year stint at UCLA led to him being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the first overall pick in the 1969 NBA Draft. Abdul-Jabbar eventually found his way to the Lakers in 1975, where he remained for the rest of his career. With the franchise, he won five NBA championships.

MLB recognizing Jackie Robinson Day

Each season MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson Day on April 15, allowing all uniformed on-field personnel to wear his iconic No. 42. However, with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic delaying the start of the season, the date passed without any recognition.

MLB rescheduled Jackie Robinson Day for Friday, Aug. 28. The Dodgers traditionally are at home but begin a three-game road series with the Texas Rangers that night.

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