Posts Tagged With: kareem abdul-jabbar

Gil Scott-Heron Honored by Kanye West at Harlem Memorial Service

(Photo courtesy of Billboard)

by Alex Damashek, N.Y.

Kanye West was among those who paid respect to spoken word artist and “bluesologist” Gil Scott-Heron, who passed away at age 62 last week, at a memorial service in Harlem’s Riverside Church last Thursday (June 2).

The service, which was open to the public, closed with West performing an Auto-Tuned yet emotional rendition of of “Lost In The World” — the song from his latest album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” and one that samples the refrain, “Who will survive in America?” from Scott-Heron’s well-known poem, “Comment #1.”

In addition to West, a trio of Scott-Heron’s longtime backing musicians gave a spirited performance of the artist’s songs “Better Days Ahead” and “The Bottle,” while the audience clapped along.

Also in attendance at the service were Grammy-winning producer Malcolm Cecil, Abiodun Oyewole of the Last Poets, Scott-Heron’s wife of 10 years Brenda Sykes, daughter Gia-Scott Heron and assorted family and friends. Scott-Heron’s eulogy was read by Sykes, who shared her intimate story of meeting Scott-Heron: the couple was introduced by basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was apparently a friend and high school rival of Scott-Heron’s (Heron played for Dewitt Clinton High in the Bronx as a teen).

Also a poet, Scott-Heron’s daughter Gia read an inspired piece of prose she’d written for her father called “Time” and sang a stirring rendition of “The Rose” by Amanda McBroom, popularized by Bette Midler. Gia Scott-Heron described her father as “a man who kept it realer than life.”

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s ‘On the Shoulders of Giants’ Celebrates the Harlem Rens

It was a who’s who of basketball — former Laker Jerry West, former Celtics center Bill Russell, Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, former Harlem Globetrotter Marques Haynes among them — and amid their laughter, arguments and playful ribbing, it became apparent that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s question about what basketball team was the best in history was not going to be met with an easy consensus.

This scene didn’t come from a sports talk show, although it would’ve made for riveting television. It was from Abdul-Jabbar’s documentary, “On the Shoulders of Giants,” a 75-minute movie narrated by Jamie Foxx that focuses on the Harlem Rens (also known as the New York Renaissance) and the effect of that basketball team both on the sport and society.

Watch the videos and read the full article from the Los Angeles Times Lakers Blog.

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Abdul-Jabbar Wants to Make Sure the Harlem Renaissance Big Five Aren’t Forgotten

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took on a documentary on the Harlem Rens because they’d “fallen through the cracks of history.” PAUL SAKUMA/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE

by Associated Press

HOUSTON — Most people have never heard of Harlem Renaissance Big Five. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is intent on changing that.

The 63-year-old Hall of Famer has co-written and is the executive producer of a documentary called “On the Shoulders of Giants.” It tells the story of the Harlem Rens, an all black professional basketball team that defeated the Original Celtics for the world basketball championship in the 1930s.

“The primary reason that I did it was because the early days of professional basketball are almost totally unknown now to the public because it happened so long ago,” Abdul-Jabbar, in town for the Final Four, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “There’s no footage. It’s just fallen through the cracks of history.”

The Rens, who competed from the 1920s until 1949, were named after Harlem’s Renaissance Casino and played in its second-story ballroom. Jazz greats including Count Basie and Cab Calloway played at halftime of the Rens’ games, and they’d come on again after the game for a dance that lasted until the wee hours of the morning.

They won more than 2,000 games, including 88 straight in 86 days in 1932-33.

Abdul-Jabbar, who was born and grew up in Harlem, said he didn’t learn of the Rens until the summer before his senior year in high school.

“When I was still in high school I knew that they were a very good team,” he said. “But I didn’t know their relationship to professional basketball until much later, after having played professional basketball.”

The movie is currently available on Comcast on demand but is set to be released on Netflix in May. It features music by artists including Chuck D of Public Enemy, of the Black Eyed Peas and Herbie Hancock. Jamie Foxx narrates the film, and a star-studded list of people, including Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Carmelo Anthony, Charles Barkley and Bill Russell, appear in it.

He said it was easy to get so many people to lend a hand with the film.

“There are a lot of people who like the sport who I know and who have something relevant to say with regard to where the sport is today and where it’s come from,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “So I was able to get people to say a few things about what they knew about the Rens and give them a little bit of the recognition that they deserve.”

The documentary also features an interview with John “Wonder Boy” Isaacs, a Ren who died in 2009.

The impact of the Rens, who were enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 1963, is far reaching, and Abdul-Jabbar said even the late John Wooden, his coach at UCLA, was influenced by the team.

“Coaches would bring their staffs to watch them play so they could figure out a way teach the game,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “That’s how well they played the game. My own coach John Wooden, he played against them in the 1930s. He played for a professional team in Indianapolis. He remembered how they played and tried to incorporate some of their expertise in his coaching philosophy.”

Abdul-Jabbar was most struck by the obstacles the Rens had to overcome in playing in a time when America was segregated.

“They couldn’t travel like everyone else,” he said. “They couldn’t stay in hotels. There was no guarantee that would be able to eat at a restaurant, and sometimes people wouldn’t sell them gas because they were black. It was a very different time in this country and very difficult to be a person of color and try to function in America. Yet they dealt with all of that just for the opportunity to play basketball.”

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Brings Harlem Basketball History Home with New Historical Documentary

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar came home to Harlem last week with a slam dunk lesson in black history for thousands of New York City school kids.

The NBA legend, who grew up in Harlem and Inwood, appeared at the Schomburg Center on 135th St. to screen his new documentary film, “On the Shoulders of Giants,” which tells the inspiring story of the Harlem Rens – “the greatest basketball team you’ve never heard of.”

“I wanted to give kids an idea of what had to happen for them to have this game,” Jabbar told the Daily News. “They don’t really understand everything that went into the emergence of professional basketball. And if you ask most NBA players right now, very few know that the game was segregated.”

The film depicts a team that from 1922-1948 won the hearts of Harlem fans while battling rampant racism as they barnstormed around the country, routinely winning exhibition games against white teams.

Read more in the NY Daily News.

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