In a significant trade in 1975, the Milwaukee Bucks sent Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Los Angeles Lakers, potentially altering the landscape and future of professional basketball. Abdul-Jabbar, a highly dominant figure in the game, had expressed his desire to be traded due to his dissatisfaction with Milwaukee. The Lakers acquired Abdul-Jabbar by giving up Elmore Smith, Brian Winters, Dave Meyers, and Junior Bridgeman—two promising first-round draft picks from the current college draft. The Lakers also received Walt Wesley as a backup center. Abdul-Jabbar, a 7-foot-3-inch center, cited his preference for a cosmopolitan environment where he could explore his interests in black culture, his orthodox Muslim faith, jazz, and serious reading.
Steve Cady; June 17, 1975
In a deal that reshapes the face and possibly the future of pro basketball, the Milwaukee Bucks traded Kareem Abdul‐Jabbar yesterday to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Abdul‐Jabbar, whose annual salary has been estimated at $500,000, said he had signed a five‐year contract with the West Coast team.
To land the game’s most dominant figure, the Lakers gave up Elmore Smith, an erratic center; Brian Winters, a second‐string guard, and two blue‐chip selections from the first round of this year’s college draft—Dave Meyers and Junior Bridgeman. In addition to Abdul‐Jabbar, the Lakers also received Walt Wesley, a backup center.
Abdul‐Jabbar, a 7‐foot‐3‐inch center, had asked to be traded last season because of his growing disenchantment with a city best known for beer and bratwurst.
“I’m not criticizing the people here,” said the 28‐year‐old superstar. “But Milwaukee is not what I’m all about. The things I relate to aren’t in Milwaukee.”
What the New York City schoolboy star relates to is a cosmopolitan atmosphere in which he can pursue his interests in black culture, the orthodox Moslem faith, jazz and serious reading. In Milwaukee where public adulation had deprived him of the privacy he sought, he had become more and more reclusive off the court.
Last March, he conceded he had asked the Bucks to trade him, either to the New York Knicks or the Lakers. Yesterday, at a news conference in Los Angeles, he said his first choice was New York.
“I had a strong desire to return home,” said AbdulJabbar, who as Lew Alcindor led Power Memorial Academy of Manhattan to 71 straight victories. “But the Lakers made a sincere effort to get me, and that wasn’t the case with New York. I don’t think it’s smart to go around people who don’t really want you.”
A spokesman for the Knicks said New York had tried hard to get Abdul‐Jabbar but it “couldn’t compensate” the Bucks with the kind of National Basketball Association talent provided by Los Angeles.
“If it had involved money,” the spokesman said, “we’d have been in better shape. But we didn’t have a 7‐foot center, or two young draft picks like Meyers and Bridgeman. We’re disappointed.”
According to one source, however, the Knicks could have had Abdul‐Jabbar for $4‐million in cash, with no other players involved. The reason the deal fell through, the source said, was that the Knicks already were “locked” to the big cash deal for George McGinnis, the American Basketball Association’s leading scorer.
McGinnis, a 6‐foot‐8‐inch forward for the Indiana Pacers, received a $2.4‐million contract from New York. Since then, though, the league has ruled that Philadelphia holds the N.B.A. draft rights to McGinnis.
Mike Burke, president of the Knicks, took exception to Abdul‐Jabbar’s remark that the Knicks didn’t make a sincere effort to acquire the N.B.A.’s most valuable player in three of his six seasons, a 30.4‐point scorer.
“General Manager Eddie Donovan and I went to Milwaukee and spoke to Bill Alverson [the Bucks’ president] and Wayne Embry [general manager] and we made an offer of over a $1‐million plus players and draft choices,” Burke said.
“However,” he added, “Alverson and Embry would not be specific in the talks and would only discuss in general what they wanted. Donovan pursued the matter as late as Sunday night with Embry.”
“We’d still like to have Kareem,” Burke said.
Abdul‐Jabbar had a year to go on his Milwaukee contract, plus a one‐year option. Had he played out those two years, he would have become a free agent with no obligations to Milwaukee.
“It seemed to us that now was the time to get the best return package,” Alverson said yesterday in Milwaukee. “The long ordeal is over.”
Jack Kent Cooke, owner of the Lakers, called the acquisition of Abdul‐Jabbar “an impossible dream.” At the same Los Angeles conference, the player said he could have “negated” the deal if he had wanted to do so.
He went to Milwaukee in 1969 on the toss of a coin between the Bucks and the Phoenix Suns. As a collegian, he had led the University of California, Los Angeles, to three straight national championships.
In his first of six seasons at Milwaukee, Abdul‐Jabbar led the Bucks to a won‐lost record of 56‐26 and second place in their division. The previous season, its first, Milwaukee had finished with the worst record in the league, at 27–55.
Abdul‐Jabbar’s second year in the N.B.A. produced regular‐season record of 66‐16, a playoff mark of 12‐2—and a league championship. Until this year the Bucks had never failed to make the playoffs with Abdul‐Jabbar in their line‐up.
But an injury kept him out of the first 17 games of last season, and the team never recovered. It finished last in the Midwest Division of the Western Conference with a record of 38–44.
Despite the team’s dismal showing, Abdul‐Jabbar maintained a scoring average of 29.9 points last season. His career average is the highest of any N.B.A. player, active or retired, and his field‐goal average of 55 per cent is also the best in N.B.A. history. He has led the league twice in scoring, and has been a firstteam choice on the all‐pro team four times.
Raised as a Catholic, he converted to Islamism in 1968. He changed his name three years later, the year he led the Bucks to the title.
In Meyers and Bridgeman, the Bucks apparently feel they may have two great forwards. Meyers led U.C.L.A. to another National Collegiate championship this year, and was the No. 2 pick on the first round of the draft. Bridgeman, whose University of Louisville team reached the national semifinals, was selected No. 8 on the first round by Los Angeles, which had received Cleveland’s first‐round turn.
“Frankly,” said Bridgeman, “I think the Bucks really got the best of the deal.”
Like Milwaukee, Los Angeles had plunged to rock bottom this season. With Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West only memories, the Lakers missed the playoffs for the first time since the franchise moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis in 1960–61.
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