By Barry Janoff
February 1, 2014: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995 with one of the greatest resumes in the history of the NBA: Six NBA titles (five with the Los Angeles Lakers, one with the Milwaukee Bucks), six MVP awards, 19 appearances in the All-Star Game; and still the NBA leader in points scored (38,387), field goals made (15,837) and blocked shots (3,189).
So it's hard to argue with him when he states in a new adidas commercial, "I Am the Blueprint."
In this case, he is specifically referring to the fact that college basketball in 1967 changed a major rule as a direct result of his play — slam dunks were outlawed, and not re-instated in the college game until 1976 — but that he continued to develop his skills to become an all-time great.
The effort supports the release of the Jabbar Hi basketball shoe, scheduled to hit retail on Feb. 14 (MSRP $100). The first adidas Abdul-Jabbar signature shoe was released in 1971. The push also includes a dedicated Web site and social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
According to adidas, the theme "The Blueprint" came from conversations the company had with its NBA spokesman, including Derrick Rose, John Wall and Damian Lillard.
Abdul-Jabbar himself talks about the situation in documentary style, which also features Bobby "The Bounce Pass" Mitchowski, a fictitious college star played by actor Glenn Howerton of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
The spot opens with vintage footage of Abdul-Jabbar, then known as Lew Alcindor (he changed his name in 1971 after winning his first NBA title, which was with the Bucks), playing hoops at UCLA, with the text, "The Day The Dunk Died."
The scene then cuts to Abdul-Jabbar today, wearing an adidas warm-up jacket.
"I don't really remember the lead-up to the chaining of the rules," says Abdul-Jabbar, who led UCLA to three national championships during his four-year career. "But as far as I can remember, it seemed to come out of nowhere."
The action then cuts back to shots of Abdul-Jabbar in action for UCLA, then goes into the "locker room" of an opposing player.
"I think you all saw there was a man out there — what was it — slamming!" says a disgruntled Bobby "The Bounce Pass" Mitchowski to reporters. "I don't like that kind of business. 'Oh, look at me. I'm so tall. I can fly through the air like an eagle.' The jump-stop. The pivot. The bounce pass. That's the game of basketball . . . Now, if you excuse us, us men need to take a shower."
The spot then cuts back to Abdul-Jabbar. "The reasoning the rules committee gave us [for banning the slam dunk] was that it would be safer for the players if they did not attempt to dunk," Abdul-Jabbar says with a smirk.
Continues Abdul-Jabbar. "I had more than one shot. I had the hook shot," which he later immortalized in hoops history as the "Sky Hook."
"Shy Hook?" laughs Mitchowski. "What's that? Another gimmick? Never gonna work. We'll shut it down, whatever it is. What's this guy's obsession with the sky? Who's he know up there — eagles?"
"I'm the [NBA's] all-time leading scorer," Abdul-Jabbar says as we see a shot of him using the sky hook to score a basket. "I am the blueprint." (See the full spot here.)