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(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

KAREEM is a diary that the great Los Angeles Laker center, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, kept through his final season. He records the results of the games and his performance, but this is not the central focus. Nor does he go into any detail about the many tributes given to him in his last season. Instead, his thought ranges beyond the court to his life, his opinions. So the book becomes not merely the diary of a basketball player but the life of a fascinating and intelligent man.

Much of the book deals with Kareem’s reflections on some of those closest to him. He singles out his old UCLA coach, John Wooden. The two could not have been more different on the surface, but both were committed to excellence. Kareem is candid about the influence of Malcolm X on this thought. He found that Malcolm’s message made sense. He no longer accepted conventional views since his own condition was very unusual. He praises his parents for the exacting standards they set for him.

Kareem’s last season was not a simple triumphal tour of arenas but a troubled one. The team was not performing well and some writers thought the problem was an aging Kareem. Kareem resented these calls for his early retirement; he had played hurt and knew he could overcome his problems. He did improve and show flashes of the old Kareem to silence his critics. Kareem is nothing if not resilient. He overcame the fire that destroyed his house; he overcame the hostility of fans to his religion and his aloofness. At the end of his career he had become a legendary figure. The Lakers and Kareem did not win the NBA championship in his last season; they lost in the finals. However, Kareem does not look back with regret. He looks at a poster of himself and his teammates and thinks of what they have achieved together. He has a justifiable pride in what he has done and how he has borne himself over the years.