Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has another honor to add to an already impressive list of accomplishments. He’s a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient as bestowed by President Barack Obama.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is given to individuals “who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
In a statement from the White House, President Obama said:
“The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation’s highest civilian honor—it’s a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better. From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way.”
In addition to his six titles, six MVPs, Finals MVPs 14 years apart, 19 All-Star appearances, he’s scored more points than anyone in the history of the game, often using one of the game’s most iconic shots.
Abdul-Jabbar left an indelible mark on the NCAA in the rule books as well. The governing body created a change known as ‘The Alcindor’ rule outlawing the dunk which Abdul-Jabbar used with such dominance. It held from 1967 to 1975, when it was annulled. The mandate gave birth to his signature skyhook shot.
In addition to his charitable work for his Skyhook Foundation to support disadvantaged youth, the often underrated champ has spent his post basketball career as an activist and contributor to national conversations, particularly about race in America.
President Obama had high praise for the legend in his introduction. “But the reason we honor Kareem is more than just a pair of goggles and the skyhook. He stood up for his Muslim faith, when it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t popular. He’s as comfortable sparring with Bruce Lee as he is advocating on Capitol Hill or writing with extraordinary eloquence about patriotism. Physically, intellectually, spiritually, Kareem is one of a kind: an American who illuminates both our most basic freedoms and our highest aspirations.”
Abdul-Jabbar received his award with Michael Jordan, Dodger announcer Vin Scully, Cicely Tyson, Diana Ross, Ellen DeGeneres, Robert De Niro, Tom Hanks, and Bruce Springsteen among others.