When people rank their best three players in NBA history, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar often goes unmentioned. However, I believe a lot of people don’t know just how dominant Kareem was during his playing days, which is why we are going to dive a bit deeper into his success over the course of his long and illustrious career.
How Many Times did Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Go to the Finals?
Kareem was able to make it to 10 NBA Finals throughout his historic 20 year career in the NBA. He managed to win six NBA Championships, 1 with the Bucks in 1971, before moving to the Lakers and claiming 5 more before he retired. He would even make the Finals in his final season, losing a sweep to the Bad Boy Pistons in 1989. In total he would claim 2 Finals MVPs, 1971 and 1985.
Now that we know he had 10 NBA Finals series throughout his career, which one was his best? Which one was his worst? Did he have any major injuries during those years and could he possibly have been robbed of a Finals MVP award?
What Was His Best Finals?
Kareem’s best and probably his most impressive NBA Finals victory came in 1971. First of all, the Milwaukee Bucks were a small market team, but powered by Kareem, had been phenomenal leading up to the FInals. They finished the regular season with 66 wins including a 20-win streak. He won his first ever NBA MVP award by averaging a league leading 31.7 points per game. He also had the most total points at 2,596. That was when Milwaukee made it into the postseason and absolutely dominated everybody in their path. When they made the NBA Finals, they faced off against the Baltimore Bullets. That was a series that didn’t last very long. The Bucks swept them to take the title. Kareem was subsequently named the Finals MVP by averaging 27 points per game on a ridiculous 60.5 shooting percentage. In a critical series ending Game 4, Abdul-Jabbar dropped 27 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists to make sure that the Bullets were fully eliminated. It really doesn’t get much more dominant than that.
What Was His Worst Finals?
Kareem was on the Los Angeles Lakers for the final three seasons of his career in the NBA. The first year, they won the NBA Championship after defeating the Boston Celtics. They followed that up by beating the Detroit Pistons for a second consecutive championship. Everyone knew that this third season was going to be Kareem’s last. They made it into the NBA Finals to play the Pistons for a second time. This go-around, Detroit had the last laugh. They swept Kareem and the Lakers and Abdul-Jabbar’s numbers were really bad given that it was his final season in the league. He had eight points and two rebounds in the Game 1 loss. He followed it up with an 11-point, two rebound performance in Game 2. Game 3 was completely different though, he dropped 24 points and 13 rebounds including two assists to try and give them a glimmer of hope. He fell back down in the series clincher, dropping seven points and three total rebounds before officially retiring from the league. However, he should get a lot of credit for going out there over the age of 40 and competing in an NBA Finals series, it was technically his worst statistical series throughout his career, meaning that this was the worst Finals Kareem ever performed in.
What Were Kareem’s Stats in All of These Series?
It’s not every day that we are able to talk about a player taking place in so many different NBA Finals games throughout his career. Yet, Kareem is one of the few that is able to have this conversation. In total, he played in 56 games in the NBA Finals. Combining all of those games together, Abdul-Jabbar averaged 23.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. This was all on roughly 37.2 minutes per game as well which is absolutely insane but hey, you play your best players in the biggest games. He averaged less than 1 steal which is to be expected given his position, but he did average 2.2 blocks a contest. Kareem wasn’t just a player that focused on the offensive end, he actually made a major difference in rim protection when he was out on the floor. Finally, we get to his shooting. He didn’t make a single three pointer throughout his NBA Finals games, but he still shot a high 52.3 percent from the field. No matter where he lined up inside the arc, Kareem always seemed to find a way to get to his spot. There are a lot of players in the league that would love to have stat lines like Kareem’s, and this is just his Finals performances! Considering all of his tremendous regular season accolades and statistics, Kareem’s career is truly special.
Kareem’s Strangest Playoff Run
Glancing back to Abdul-Jabbar’s final NBA Championship run, this was probably their strangest and most unusual playoff run. We talked about how this was arguably his worst statistical performance in the Finals throughout his career, but now we look a little further back. See, the Lakers made it into the playoffs and swept the Portland Trail Blazers with relative ease. Then they took their momentum into the next series against the Seattle Supersonics, sweeping them just as easily. Everybody started to catch notice of the Lakers this season as they entered a new series against the Phoenix Suns this time. Yet again, it was the exact same result. Los Angeles easily swept their opponent and advanced into the NBA Finals. This is where it gets strange, because the Lakers did end up losing this series. However, they lost by a sweep. There was not a single game played against the Pistons where the Lakers won a game. In Kareem’s final Finals run, all four series wound up being sweeps and surprisingly the Lakers were not able to come away as champions. This is something that we probably won’t see anytime soon.