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Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  1,635 ratings  ·  266 reviews
Former NBA star and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Kareem Abdul-Jabbar explores his 50-year friendship with Coach John Wooden, one of the most enduring and meaningful relationships in sports history.

When future NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was still an 18-year-old high school basketball prospect from New York City named Lew Alcindor, he accepted a scholarship f
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published May 16th 2017 by Grand Central Publishing
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Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
It seems odd to describe a book by basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as “a sweet story” but that’s the description that comes to mind upon finishing Coach Wooden and Me.

Kareem details not only his time at UCLA under Coach Wooden’s leadership, but also the friendship that evolved between the two, well-beyond those UCLA years, and the long-lasting lessons Wooden taught him, helping to shape Kareem into the man he became. Their friendship lasted 50! years, from Kareem’s college days until Wood
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Man's Humanity to Man

“A coach’s primary function should be not to make better players, but to make better people.” —John Wooden

Abdul-Jabar has now been an author for longer than he was a professional basketball player. He writes with care and craftsmanship about race and history and social responsibility as well as about himself. This book is a reflection (with no co-author) on his decision to keep a relationship with his college basketball coach. I found it more candid than most and a book that
There is something very comforting and endearing about the notion of a cerebral professional athlete who wants to honor a man that he views as responsible for instilling the many of the characteristics and qualities that he likes most about himself. Jabbar does an admirable treatise to his revered UCLA basketball coach, Coach John Wooden. It's clear that Jabbar loved this man as a father figure and a friend. These things have a way keeping you grounded when you are destined to be one of the grea ...more
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites
As a UCLA alumnus, John Wooden’s aura is ubiquitous throughout campus. You can barely take a step without seeing some pithy, profound quote of his (my favorite: “Be quick but don’t hurry.”) But I had been born after his age of dominance had long since passed, and I only knew of him as an extremely successful figure in college basketball history.

Success is a word also used to describe the author, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. These two combined to form one of the legendary tandems in sports history. But
Meg Marie
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm not crying, you're crying.
Chuck Barton
Jun 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Very readable. Not particularly well-written. Abdul-Jabbar is very articulate and intelligent so the writing is something of a letdown. It may be that this book is geared more toward young readers or at least written to be accessible to them. Lots of interesting anecdotes and life lessons, but it can seem repetitious. Enjoyable for what it is - a heart-warming story of two giants from very different backgrounds who find common ground in basketball and build a meaningful friendship on that founda ...more
J Beckett
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
A pleasant tribute of friendship and admiration from NBA great, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to college coach and "in loco parentis," John Wooden. At times emotional and sentimental, then philosophical and inspirational, Coach Wooden and Me, is the sort of story that assures eternal life and the stuff of legend; a memoir covering the 50 year friendship between Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and John Wooden.

Filled with wholesome bit of wisdom, Coach Wooden becomes an icon beyond the basketball court, assuming the po
John Yingling
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a truly heartwarming, touching, inspirational book. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a very good writer to begin with. And this friendship should be a template for all of us. Color, race, cultural background; there are huge gaps in our understanding of each other in this country, but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and John Wooden found common ground in basketball, but then expanded their relationship into a deep, honest, decades long friendship that ended only with Mr. Wooden's passing. This story is touching i ...more
Max Mannina
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book told the story of one of the greatest sports friendships ever was amazing. It described their friendship from beginning to end and how it started as player and coach and ended as best friends. Each person was extremely successful on their own but when they were together it was a duo that could never be broken up. Kareem wouldn't have been the great center he was without John Wooden's intelligence and John Wooden wouldn't have been as successful as a coach without the 3 championships Ka ...more
Benjamin baschinsky
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Warm tender story, of the legendary Coach and all the people he touched .
Deacon Tom F
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great One

This was a great walk through the past for a sports fan like me. I have to be old enough to remember every incident in this book except for Coach Wooden‘s early days in college. I really like the details & was accurate the best I could remember.
Schuyler Wallace
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing

I’ve just finished reading of a love between two men that has deeply touched me. There is no embarrassment in it, no hesitation in recounting their closeness, no apologies for its tenderness. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has written of his coach and friend of 50 years, John Wooden, sharing their relationship, and paying credit to the influence that his old coach has made on his life. “Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court” is a story for all time written by a 7 foot 2-inch tall
Tess Huelskamp
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Long time basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jamar details his 50 year friendship with his mentor and father figure Coach Wooden of UCLA.

Some thoughts:
* Coach Wooden's cute Midwestern/English teacher anachronisms -- "Is this lightning or a lightning bug?"- were fun to read about. They reminded me of a few of my own teachers, directors, and coaches :) which was heartwarming.
* Racism, religion, family, and death were respectfully and tactfully covered here.
* This book is clearly written with a great a
Budd Margolis
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The greatest coach in American history was a simple man from Indiana who ended up at UCLA and created a legendary programme and 10 NCAA Championships. This one school was changed by a man who revolutionised how to think and play basketball as a lesson for life. Wooden was a modest man and a genius. Who better to tell his story through a most remarkable relationship and friendship than Kareem Abdul Jabbar. This book has tender moments interrupted by stark reality of the times and events they live ...more
This is a fantastic book about a 50 year friendship between Kareem Abdul Jabbar and his UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden. Kareem describes how their relationship evolved from coach/player to true friendship. The book is filled with Woodenisms- his poems, sayings and admonitions to his players- his pyramid of success and more. What comes through clearly is that Wooden focused on building young men of good character, with winning basketball games as a secondary concern. Kareem describes how this ...more
Dylan Richer
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Coach Wooden and me is a book about two of the biggest basketball faces ever and about how their friendship started and evolved. Kareem is the all time leader in career points and John Wooden is one of the greatest basketball coaches ever. Kareem and John first meet when Kareem is applying for college. At first Kareem does not trust Coach Wooden because of a relationship with a former coach. This is a story of how two very different people with different backgrounds became friends over the sport ...more
Mar 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A heartfelt account of a beautiful friendship between two admirable men. Easy reading (think more conversation, less great American novel), but the reflective nature and the earnestness will make you cry. For fans of either man, of their accomplishments on or off the court, or for anyone who has felt the presence in their life of a path-altering teacher, student, or friend.
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good book, surprising tearjerker. Had moments of wisdom and what it was like to grow up being Kareem Abdul. Also what it’s like to have a long term friendship with someone very different from yourself.
This book gave me a perspective of friendships wth a long lens. A good read.
Feb 06, 2020 rated it liked it
This book makes me want to read more about Coach Wooden and his approach to life and coaching. The last few chapters are what I wanted from the rest of the book - I felt the power of their friendship. The rest of the book felt too much of a formula of "this happened, coach said or did this, coach is amazing" which was interesting but did not engage me like the ending did.
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Okay, my bias may be showing because I am a UCLA alumna, but this truly is a wonderful book. The relationship between Lewis/Kareem and Coach Wooden is so special and I have been waiting for years for it to be shared. Kareem does a great job of describing all aspects of their relationship: the good times and bad, victories and losses, happy memories and tragic losses. Wooden's words of wisdom are sprinkled throughout the book and I found myself wanting to share many passages with my friends. We a ...more
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a loving tribute from one extraordinary man to another. It's worth hearing the audio book because Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the reader.
Jack Bush
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a truly uplifting work. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has let us in on his remarkable friendship with a man who he says became his surrogate Father after his Dad passed. It is refreshing to see this true friendship and its effect on the author. This was truly uplifting.
Ted Johnson
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Saw the title and wanted to read it. It did not disappoint. Less basketball in it than you might think, and more about the relationship between the two men.
Robert Pacilio
In its genre, Abdul-Jabbar does a wonderful job explain Coach Wooden's influence on him as a kid who thought highly of himself coming out of Harlem in the '60's and how he turned his basketball life and his outlook on life around. It is for someone who either saw him play, wonders about his incredible career on and off the court, or merely is interested in how this man embraced his idol--John Wooden.
Steve Shilstone
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Portrait of a 50 year friendship between 2 superior human beings always in search of self-improvement.
Jul 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I really like Coach Wooden. I'd never heard of him before (not a sports person...), but his approach toward life and people spoke to my heart. Endeavoring to be like him would be a worthy goal, and I hope it isn't too late in my life to start trying! Some of the racist encounters related by the author were both painful and eye-opening. I've always known that, as a white person, I just can't "get it," but this emphasized that fact. However, I did find this book to be a little too political for my ...more
Dillon Dell
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Coach Wooden and Me by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar restores the greatness of legendary Coach Wooden through heartfelt moments shared between legendary pair, Kareem and Coach Wooden. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shows the theme that there are great people in the world and that we must reach our true potential through those people.
In this biography of Coach Wooden with hints of an autobiography the author doesn’t share a distinct setting. This book has memories of the two over a fifty year friendship with most of
Liz Baker
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Don’t think about winning the game. Just do everything possible to prepare. As long as you know you have done everything possible and you have given your best self on the court, that is your reward. The scoreboard is meaningless.”

If you love the game of basketball and/or John Wooden, this is a great, easy read. My goal was to read it during March Madness this year, but life circumstances intervened in such a way that 1) I barely watched any March Madness this year and 2) I didn’t read much bey
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Abdul-Jabbar explains the story of his friendship with John Wooden in a way that pays tribute to his coach and mentor, in life as well as on the basketball court. A bit of a nostalgic run for me, as both were childhood heroes of mine.

The author repeatedly describes his own surprise at the way that a 7'2" kid from Brooklyn, turned Muslim, could appreciate the association with the much shorter and older Midwesterner white Christian Wooden for over 50 years of their lives. The story of the coach's
John Markey
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An honest and authentic reflection / memoir written by a very thoughtful person reflecting upon lessons learned from a great teacher and coach. Following the example of his teacher, the author is both humble and determined to live a life of integrity. The many references to poetry, literature, the Civil Rights Movement, sports, and jazz place this personal story of friendship in historical and cultural context.
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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr. on April 16, 1947 in New York City, New York, United States) is an American former professional basketball player and current assistant coach. Typically referred to as Lew Alcindor in his younger days, he changed his name when he converted to Islam.

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