Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won six NBA Championships, winning six rings — one with the Milwaukee Bucks and five with the Los Angeles Lakers.
When you think of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, you think of one the greatest records that he held for the longest time: the most points of all time. On April 5, 1984, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar passed Wilt Chamberlain for the top spot on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. LeBron James recently broke this monumental record.
Kareem used his size well. His signature skyhook shot dominated the NBA — it was nearly unblockable and amazingly accurate. Kareem is widely seen as one of the greatest players of all time and one of the best centers, if not the best. Abdul-Jabbar was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995.
Before looking at his NBA Championships, let’s take a look at his childhood and early basketball days.
Lew Alcindor Growing Up (and Up)
Abdul-Jabbar was born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. in New York City to Cora Lillian and Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Sr. He weighed 12 pounds, 10 ounces, and was 22 1/2 inches long at birth. Lew Alcindor stood 6’8″ tall at the age of 12 and could dunk a basketball.
He led his Power Memorial Academy to a 71-game winning streak and three straight New York City Catholic championships. He gained the nickname “The Tower of Power” in high school and was ready for the next level of play.
Learn more about the game of basketball with our Basketball Terms and Definitions.
He chose to play with John Wooden at UCLA. At 7’2″ tall, he was an imposing figure. Regulations at the time prevented freshmen from playing at the varsity level, so Alcindor played on the freshmen team.
It should be noted that the UCLA freshmen beat the varsity team in the first game at Pauley Pavillion by a score of 75-60. Alcindor starred with 31 points, 21 rebounds, and seven blocked shots. UCLA’s varsity was two-time defending champs.
He was the only player to win three Most Outstanding Player awards at the Final Four as the UCLA Bruins won three consecutive NCAA Championships.
How Many Rings Does Kareem Have?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won six rings with two teams over 21 seasons. He won one with the Milwaukee Bucks and five with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Kareem’s first ring came with the Bucks, only 2 seasons into his long career. Kareem’s other 5 came with the Lakers, which contributed to 17 total championships for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Key Kareem Stats in the NBA Finals:
1.) He averaged 23.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in 56 Finals games.
2.) Kareem is 3rd for all-time points in Finals history.
3.) He won his 5 championships with the Lakers in 8 seasons.
4.) Kareem is the oldest NBA player to win a Finals MVP at 38 years old.
See How long is a basketball game (NBA, WNBA, NCAA, High School, and more).
Overview of Kareem’s NBA Championships
Kareem was selected 1st overall in the 1969 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks after declining an offer to play with the Harlem Globetrotters for $1 million. He was also selected 1st overall in the 1969 ABA Draft by the New York Nets.
The Nets thought they’d get Kareem since he was a New York kid. However, Kareem told the Bucks and the Nets he’d go to whoever offered the most money. It ended up being the Bucks, and the young all-time great’s career began.
Kareem quickly showed he would dominate the NBA in his rookie season. He was one of the missing pieces the Milwaukee Bucks needed, alongside All-Star guard Oscar Robertson. He was named Rookie of the Year.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Highlights
First NBA Championship Ring (Bucks vs. Baltimore Bullets, 1971)
With Kareem and Oscar Robertson playing together, they quickly took over the NBA during the 1970-71 season. They had the best record in the NBA, with 66 wins in 82 games. Kareem received his first NBA Most Valuable Player Award along with his first scoring title with 31.7 points per game.
They smoothly made their way to the finals after beating the Warriors in 5 games and the Lakers in 5 games as well. Their next matchup was the Baltimore Bullets in the finals.
The NBA Finals came, and Kareem dominated from the start. They swept the Bullets in 4 games as Kareem went on to put up 27 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists in game 4. Throughout the finals, Kareem averaged 27 points per game on 60.5% shooting in the series. Those averages got Kareem his first Finals MVP trophy.
Key Life Events
Before the 1971 season, Lew Alcindor converted from Catholicism to Islam and took the name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The name means “noble, powerful servant.”
The Bucks negotiated a trade with the LA Lakers, sending Jabbar to Los Angeles for Junior Bridgeman, Dave Meyers, Elmore Smith, and Brian Winters in 1975.
Second NBA Championship Ring (Lakers vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 1980)
The Buck’s dominance came to an end when Oscar Robertson retired in September 1974 after a failed deal with the bucks. As Oscar retired, that led to Kareem requesting a trade.
In 1975 the Los Angeles Lakers would trade for Kareem, and in 1980 they drafted Magic Johnson with the first pick, which would quickly work out for them. Since being on the Lakers, Kareem would continue to dominate the league and had Magic Johnson right by his side. This started their dominant dynasty of the 1980’s which they would go on to win 5 championships in 8 seasons.
In the 1980 Finals, Kareem averaged 33.4 points in 5 games. In game 5, he left with a sprained ankle but returned, put up 40 points, and got his team the win. He would go on to miss game 6, and Magic Johnson took care of business.
The Lakers would beat the 76ers in 6 games behind Magic’s 42 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists in game 6 performance. On any other team, Kareem would’ve been the Finals MVP. However, with the help of his game 6 performance and solid overall series play, the Finals MVP would go to Magic Johnson.
Third NBA Championship Ring (Lakers vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 1982)
Once again, the Lakers continued to dominate the NBA, which translated nicely into the playoffs. They cruised past the Phoenix Suns and the San Antonio Spurs, sweeping both.
They met the 76ers once again in the finals who were wanting their revenge. Even with an injured Kareem, the 76ers still couldn’t get their championship.
The Lakers won in six games, and Kareem, who dealt with migraines, would go on to average just 18 points per game in those 6 matchups with the 76ers.
Fourth NBA Championship Ring (Lakers vs. Boston Celtics, 1985)
It is known that the Lakers and Boston Celtics are one of the biggest rivalries of all time. This was the first experience of this rivalry for Kareem, and he went on to shine.
However, after being outplayed in game 1 by 30-year-old Robert Parrish, he received lots of criticism from the head coach Pat Riley. It is said that in a film session before game 2, Kareem was forced to sit in the front instead of the back where he usually sits and was criticized a lot. He even asked Pat Riley if his dad could ride with him on the team bus on the way to game 2, which ended up happening.
In game 2, Kareem bounced back, putting up 30 points, 17 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 blocks in a bounce-back win. This turn of events would lead to the Lakers beating the Celtics in 6, ending their streak of 8 straight championships against the Lakers. In those 6 games, Kareem averaged 25.7 points, 9 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.5 blocks. These performances earned him his second Finals MVP, becoming the oldest to do so at 38 years and 54 days old.
Fifth NBA Championship Ring (Lakers vs. Boston Celtics, 1987)
A very anticipated rematch happened in 1987. Once again, the Lakers and Celtics dominated to meet each other in the NBA Finals.
Kareem and Magic were once again too much for the Celtics, winning in 6 games after cruising past the Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors. Kareem would go on to average 21.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game in this series.
Sixth NBA Championship Ring (Lakers vs. Detroit Pistons, 1988)
In 1988, Kareem finds himself being able to pick up his sixth ring against one of the most hated teams, the Detroit Pistons. He was able to do so in a tough 7 game series.
Kareem had some lower averages this series, but the chemistry and hot streak the Lakers were on were all too much. Against the Pistons, Kareem averaged 13.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game. After the 1988 season, Kareem announced he would return for one final year to cap off his amazing career.
Fun Fact: In his final season, Kareem would reach the NBA Finals once again, and the Lakers were swept by the Pistons in a revenge series.
In 1995, Kareem showed heavy interest in wanting to coach and share his knowledge of the game with NBA players. As crazy as it sounds, Kareem didn’t have very many options because of his actions off the court.
During his career, he was known to be introverted and quick-tempered. He was usually mean to the media, and his shyness and sensitivity made him seem unfriendly. He always had the mentality that he didn’t have time for anyone and didn’t owe anyone anything.
Magic Johnson once even said he remembers Kareem turning down a kid who asked for an autograph. Kareem always had an attitude with reporters and once refused to stop reading a newspaper during an interview.
Kareem ended up realizing he had a bad attitude and that he had the attitude for so long that it was hard for him to change.
With that noted, Kareem ended up landing some jobs, and the winning continued. He was an assistant for the Los Angeles Clippers and the Seattle Supersonics. Then he landed a job as a head coach for the Oklahoma Storm of the United States Basketball League in 2002, where he would go on to win the championship.
He then bounced around in the NBA again and won 2 NBA Championships, both with the Lakers as a special assistant coach.
FAQ – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Here are some frequently asked questions about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Who is the basketball player in the movie “Airplane”?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played First Officer Roger Murdock in the movie Airplane.
How tall is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is 7’2″ tall.
How many 3s did Kareem Abdul-Jabbar make?
Abdul-Jabbar made just one three-pointer in the NBA. While he attempted a three-pointer 18 times, he was successful just once.
What year was the 3-point line added in NBA?
The three-point line was added to NBA scoring in 1979. For reference, 1979 was Larry Bird’s and Magic Johnson’s rookie years.
Who was the NBA’s leading scorer before Kareem?
Abfdul-Jabbar surpassed Wilt Chamberlain’s 31,419 points. Abdul-Jabbar scored his 31,420th point on April 5, 1984.
How many rings does Kareem have?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has six NBA Championship rings — one with the Milwaukee Bucks and five with the LA Lakers.
Who is the number one all-time scorer in NBA history?
LeBron James broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 38-year-old record by raising his career scoring total to 38,388 points (and counting) on Tuesday, February 7, 2023.
How many years did Kareem Abdul-Jabbar play?
Abdul-Jabbar played for twenty years with just two NBA teams, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Players with the Most NBA Championship Rings
Here are the NBA players with the most championships.
Six or More Rings
Bill Russell – Boston Celtics (11)
Sam Jones – Boston Celtics (10)
Satch Sanders – Boston Celtics (8)
KC Jones – Boston Celtics (8)
John Havlicek – Boston Celtics (8)
Tom Heinsohn – Boston Celtics (8)
Jim Loscutoff – Boston Celtics (7)
Robert Horry – Houston Rockets, LA Lakers, and San Antonio Spurs (7)
Frank Ramsey – Boston Celtics (7)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – Milwaukee Bucks and LA Lakers (6)
Michael Jordan – Chicago Bulls (6)
Scottie Pippen – Chicago Bulls (6)
Bob Cousy – Boston Celtics (6)
George Mikan – Minneapolis Lakers (5)
Kobe Bryant – Los Angeles Lakers (5)
Jim Pollard – Minneapolis Lakers (5)
Don Nelson – Boston Celtics (5)
Slater Martin – Minneapolis Lakers (5)
Magic Johnson – Los Angeles Lakers (5)
Michael Cooper – Los Angeles Lakers (5)
Larry Siegfried – Boston Celtics (5)
Ron Harper – Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers (5)
Dennis Rodman – Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls(5)
Steve Kerr – Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs (5)
Tim Duncan – San Antonio Spurs (5)
Derek Fisher – Los Angeles Lakers (5)
Steph Curry – Golden State Warriors (4)
Draymond Green – Golden State Warriors (4)
Andre Iguodala – Golden State Warriors (4)
Klay Thompson – Golden State Warriors (4)
LeBron James – Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Los Angeles Lakers (4)
Tony Parker – San Antonio Spurs (4)
Shaquille O’Neal – Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat (4)
Manu Ginobili – San Antonio Spurs (4)
Horace Grant – Chicago Bulls (4)
John Salley – Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls, and Los Angeles Lakers (4)
Will Perdue – Chicago Bulls (4)
Robert Parish – Boston Celtics (4)
Jamaal Wilkes – Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors (4)
Kurt Rambis – Los Angeles Lakers (4)
Bill Sharman – Boston Celtics (4)
Gene Guarilia – Boston Celtics (4)
Frank Saul – Rochester Royals and Minneapolis Lakers (4)
Vern Mikkelsen – Minneapolis Lakers (4)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA Legacy
Jabbar’s honors include winning six league MVPs, and 19 all-star selections, making 15 All-NBA first teams, being selected 11-time all-defense team, and winning six NBA titles. Plus, Abdul-Jabaar won two NBA Finals MVP awards and two scoring championships. Now, that’s an impressive resume!
“Kareem was probably, with his size and his sky hook, the most dominating force in our league as far as getting a basket any time you want it,” said Larry Bird in the ESPN Classic’s SportsCentury series.
When you’re talking about the greatest player to have ever suited up for the game, you have to include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s name in the conversation. What other player has had such tremendous success at all levels of play (high school, college, and pros)? He was a dominating force on both offense and defense. When the game was on the line for his teams, virtually always the ball went to Kareem.
Off the court, Abdul-Jabbar has been a civil rights advocate since the 1960s. In 2021, the NBA created the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award to honor his contributions. It awards $100,000 to an NBA player who goes above and beyond in their pursuit of social justice.
By Emmett Swendseid with Mike O’Halloran
Emmett is a sportswriter based in the Twin Cities. Mike is the founder and editor of Sports Feel Good Stories.
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