9.04.2008

When the Bucks Dealt Jabbar (Part II)

There may be a whole generation of fans who believe Abdul-Jabbar probably was born in the painted area in front of the basket at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif. That just has to be his home, the only place he has ever known. It is from there, with his back to the basket, that Abdul-Jabbar looks over his right shoulder, then dribbles to his left and lofts his famous shot. The skyhook.

Abdul-Jabbar has not always been a Laker, no matter how much it may seem like it. How long has it been? Laker clocks say it was four NBA titles ago. According to a more conventional method of telling time, it was more than 12 years ago.

The trade that forever changed the makeup of the Lakers happened Monday, June 16, 1975, when club owner Jack Kent Cooke announced he had sent four players - Brian Winters, Elmore Smith, David Meyers and Junior Bridgeman - and a cash payment to the Bucks for Abdul-Jabbar and Walt Wesley.

For Cooke, it was likely his highest achievement as owner of the Lakers, and he remains justifiably proud of it.

"It was almost wholesale on our side for what amounted to retail on their side," said Cooke. "We got this magnificent player, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The great success of the Lakers really stems from the acquisition of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I don't think there is any question of that."

Cooke had once before traded for a well-known center. Before the 1968-69 season, he traded Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark and Darrall Imhoff to Philadelphia for 32-year-old Wilt Chamberlain. Chamberlain retired in 1973 after playing on one Laker team, the 1972 club that won the NBA title from the New York Knicks in five games.

But never before or since has the best big man in the game been traded at the height of his career, going on to lead his new team to four NBA titles, outscore every player who has ever played basketball, play longer than anyone ever has before and outlast every one of the younger players for whom he was traded.

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