9.04.2008

When the Bucks Dealt Jabbar (Part I)

In a suite of rooms at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Milwaukee, after a dinner of beef Wellington, red wine and assorted cheeses, the National Basketball Association's most valuable player, the most dominant figure in the game, told his employers he didn't want to work for them anymore.

Twenty-eight-year-old Kareem Abdul- Jabbar said that night he wanted the Milwaukee Bucks to trade him. While the men who ran the Bucks listened in deathly silence, Abdul- Jabbar said that he wanted only one thing. He wanted out.

The night of Oct. 3, 1974, marked the beginning of the end of Abdul-Jabbar's association with the Bucks. In the five years he had played in Milwaukee, he won an NBA title, in 1971, and took his team to a seventh game in the NBA final series before losing to the Celtics just six months before that night in October.

Now, those things were no longer enough to keep him happy.

And although no one knew it at the time, that one meeting eventually produced the biggest blockbuster trade that the NBA has ever seen, the one that brought Abdul-Jabbar to the Los Angeles Lakers.

For almost eight months, the trade that has rearranged the balance of power in the NBA for 12 years now, had a couple of noticeable characteristics. Whatever package the Bucks would eventually wrap Abdul-Jabbar in, it had to be a huge one. And it would also be a secret one, at least while everyone tried to figure out where to send the package.

While the Bucks kept looking, they kept quiet. They thought they could talk Abdul-Jabbar out of leaving, but his mind was made up.

"I had only one year left on my contract, and I told them I really wasn't interested in signing again," Abdul-Jabbar said. "I wanted to leave Milwaukee. If they would trade me, it would be the best thing for everybody."

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