A friend of a friend-Kareem Abdul Jabbar-Abdul Ghaffar-February 17

One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for February 17, 2015.

My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.

In 1985 I became a Head Basketball Coach on the college level. I inherited a pretty good team that made a rookie coach look good. In coaching I have always prescribed to the acronym RDOP. This stands for Recruit Daily Or Perish. Even though I was able to get my first team to win the Carolinas Conference Championship I needed to find some recruits to bolster the roster for the upcoming season.

In that first recruiting class was a young man who taught me a lot of great lessons as a coach and would go on to become a friend. His name was Abdul Ghaffar and he hailed from Pittsboro, NC and Northwood HS.

Abdul enrolled at UNC Pembroke in 1986 with another signee named Ken Spencer who was from Eagle Springs NC and Pinecrest HS. Ken and Abdul are still great friends today and Ken is currently the Assistant Basketball Coach at SC State in Orangeburg, SC.  SC State is currently 7-5 in their conference. They opened up the season with three brutal games on the road in the span of 5 days against University of Washington, University of San Francisco, and University of Virginia (Currently 24-1 and ranked #2 in nation).

Abdul after he graduated from Pembroke went on to grad school at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where he got his master’s degree. He then came back to UNC Pembroke to work in a number of different roles in Student Affairs and Athletics. He was employed at UNCP for 13 years before he went to work for Native Angels Homecare a company his wife founded in 2000 with just three employees. Abdul today is very instrumental in AAU athletics and was instrumental in creating the Robeson County Hall of Fame.

Abdul’s wife is Bobbie Jacobs who was a former softball player at UNCP and they have three children. Their youngest a son Walt is a very accomplished junior golfer and is destined for great stuff. They have a daughter Aminah who is a standout track and field athlete at East Carolina University.

What Abdul taught me is that coaches must have the ability to appreciate all types of diversity on a team. Abdul during his sophomore year questioned me on the type of prayer we used before a game. He was right that my perspective was only Christian prayer the Lord’s Prayer to be specific. I learned that appreciating others culture and point of perspective was important. Abdul also showed me the power of a second chance. As with all young players waiting for your opportunity is trying. As a freshman and sophomore his playing time was limited and he had thoughts about giving up basketball. Instead of telling him to go on I asked him to think about it. After several weeks he came back to the team. In 1990 he made me look like a genius by hitting a shot against nationally ranked Pfeiffer College at the buzzer to give Pembroke a Homecoming Victory that people still talk about today. If I had just let him go I don’t think I would have received that coaching gift two years later.

On the teams that I coached at Pembroke from 1985-1992 there was no shortage of guys that could tell some stories that teetered between embellishment and outright pathologically lying. We had Raymond Wherry telling us about his cousin who sat in an outhouse that exploded, Mike McNeil telling us about a neighbor who was run over by a car and he still had tire tread marks on his face, our manager/student assistant Jake Godwin telling us about undercutting Michael Jordan during a high school game, and a number of players telling us about a night in high school that they lit some team up for 40 points or more. I would listen to all of these stories on the bus or van with a grain of salt.

Abdul would not be out done as he would tell all of us that his “godfather” was Abdul Kareem Jabbar. He never presented us with any proof just verbal remarks.

The Friend-ABDUL GHAFFAR depicted in center-his wife Bobbi on far left.


The Friend of the Friend-KAREEM ABDUL JABBAR


How Abdul and Kareem became connected

For those that don’t know Kareem Abdul Jabbar is a retired professional basketball player that starred in the NBA for 20 years (1969-1989). He played for the Milwaukee Bucks for 6 seasons and the L.A Lakers for 14 years. Prior to 1971 Kareem was known as Lew Alcindor and was the premier college basketball player in the country from 1967-1969 at UCLA. Over his three-year career his teams won three NCAA Championships and won 88 games and only lost 2.

The accomplishments of Kareem the basketball are numerous. He was 6 time NBA Champion, 6 times NBA MVP, 2 time NBA scoring champion, 19 times NBA All-star selection, and scored 38,387 points in his career.

After Basketball Kareem starred in TV and Movies including playing co-pilot Roger Murdock in the movie Airplane.

Lew Alcindor became a disciple of Islam while in college and he officially adopted an Arabic name in 1971 the day after the Milwaukee Bucks won the 1971 NBA Championship. In the conversion process he had to attend classes and he was a classmate of Abdul Ghaffar father who was in the same class that Kareem was part of. He asked Kareem if he would be his son’s godfather and he agreed.

Before the start of Abdul’s senior year he brought a picture and notecard to me from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar that clearly showed the two of them had a relationship. I had to remove Abdul from the list of his teammates that were world-class embellishers.


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