Lakers to unveil Kareem Abdul-Jabbar statue

The Lakers are to unveil a statue featuring Hall of Fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during the 2012-13 season, The Los Angeles Times has learned.

A firm date for introducing the statue outside Staples Center hasn’t been finalized.

Abdul-Jabbar remains the NBA’s all-time leading scorer (38,387 points). He won five of his six NBA titles and three of his six league MVPs with the Lakers. His high scoring rate and mastery of his famed skyhook established him, in the opinion of many, as the best center of all time.

The Lakers have previously indicated they would unveil a statue of Abdul-Jabbar at some point, after honoring Magic Johnson, Chick Hearn and Jerry West on Star Plaza at Staples Center.

But Abdul-Jabbar publicly criticized the Lakers last year, believing the failure to erect a statue of him sooner was a show of disrespect. Similarly, he lamented the Lakers not awarding him playoff shares and pointed to his reduced role and pay as a special assistant coach for Andrew Bynum from 2005 to 2011. Abdul-Jabbar also mentioned how he often had to sit on the back of the plane on team trips.

The Lakers have maintained there’s no set criteria on determining the order of statue inductions, and the other people associated with the team represented by statues also have extensive resumes.

Johnson brought Showtime to the Lakers along with five NBA championships, and until recently, he had an ownership stake. He also played a part in the Staples Center being built in 1999.

Hearn was considered the game’s best broadcaster because of his catchy word play and storytelling.

West finished as the Lakers’ second-all-time-leading scorer and led the Lakers’ to their first title in Los Angeles in 1972, only to top that by winning seven NBA championships as the team’s general manager from 1982 to 2000.

AEG, which owns Staples Center, plays a larger role in determining who is honored with a statue at the venue (others include Oscar De La Hoya and Wayne Gretzky) and when it is done.

On the other issues, the Lakers have attributed Abdul-Jabbar’s reduced pay and role to Bynum’s belief that he didn’t need as much personal instruction.

Team officials also have noted that they give autonomy to head coaches in hiring their own assistants and that players allocate playoff shares at their own discretion.

In an interview with The Los Angeles Times two years ago, Lakers executive vice president Jeanie Buss indicated that honoring Abdul-Jabbar next with a statue would be a “natural fit.”

Said Buss: “Certainly Kareem stands among some of the greatest of all time.”

-Mark Medina