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Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  1,064 ratings  ·  226 reviews
The first memoir for young readers by sports legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

At one time, Lew Alcindor was just another kid from New York City with all the usual problems: He struggled with fitting in, with pleasing a strict father, and with overcoming shyness that made him feel socially awkward. But with a talent for basketball, and an unmatched team of supporters, Lew Alcind
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published November 21st 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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Average rating 4.25  · 
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 ·  1,064 ratings  ·  226 reviews

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Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I try to be conservative with my five star reviews, but there were just so many good things about this book.

I thought there was a good balance between Kareem's experiences with racism and intolerance without becoming overly political. It is an unapologetic look at who he has become and why, without attacking people for their different religious feelings. He skillfully approaches his life with a "here I am" lens but explains that in an age of tolerance, that doesn't mean we all have to be the sam
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
3,5/5. Very well done biography about and from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a NBA player. The story sure talk about basketball but also about religion, racism and becoming who you want to be. Nothing really knew on those subjects or the way they are presented but just a good book that deserved its time.
I've had a number of students blow through this and I was happy to have it for the little sports enthusiasts, but I assumed it would not interest me much. I don't know a hook shot from a touch down. I couldn't have been more wrong. BECOMING KAREEM shines not just on young Lew Alcindor's formative years but parallels upheavals in American society. Most moving are his relationships with his coaches and his religious journey. Sports fans won't be disappointed, but all readers who finish this will k ...more
Mar 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is such an informative and inspirational book. My admiration for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar definitely doubled after reading this memoir! Powerful lessons about questioning social norms, assessing what you hear, learn at school, what your friends and parents teach you against your conscience, your logic, and your values, not just blindly accepting them, even if that means you sometimes feel absolutely alone.
Shauna Yusko
Simply WOW!

So many books to pair this with! So many curriculum tie-ins. I think is must reading for everyone, not just sports fans.

And if I wasn't already in love with this book, he made it possible to pair with one of my favorite books from this year (Schomberg), quotes John Green, and Robert Frost.
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya-nonfiction, memoir
Fascinating account of Kareem's experiences growing up. He reads the book himself and does a great job of it. ...more
Carsen Drennen
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love this book I can relate to his childhood and his political views also his athletic life also.
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wonderful book. Though I will say
Abdul Jabbar seems to have used mostly simple writing. Felt like it was aimed at a middle schooler or high schooler. On a positive note this made it very easy to read and the book flows nicely. It was a pleasant and moving read.
Isaac Thomas
Aug 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really liked the theme of the book. Jabbar discusses all of the coaches in his life who helped him "become" Kareem, or the man he is today. Although he discusses his actual basketball coaches at length (and even wrote an entire book about his relationship with John Wooden) he broadens the term "coach" to mean anybody who ever inspired him in any way. While discussing these coaches in the book's introduction Jabbar says "some were writers, singers, poets, athletes, or activists whom I met, or w ...more
Caleb Harless
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is great. I like the fact Kareem wrote this book himself. It provides so much more detail about his childhood and basketball career. He doesn't brag about his career achievements although it could be easy to do being he's the all time leading scorer in the NBA. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes basketball or likes nonfiction books. ...more
Mostafa Mamoun
Nov 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Mostafa Mamoun
Mrs. Clarke

I chose the book Becoming Kareem, by Kareem Abdul Jabbar. This was a direct journey of Kareem growing up and going through adulthood and changes in his life before he becomes an NBA legend. His birth name was Lew Alcindor, and he was just a kid that lived in Harlem, New York, and wanted to live life normally. However as he learned throughout growing up, that he was far from normal, and that changes in life would happen no matter how hard they would be. He had to
Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court

I Picked Up This Book Because: Seemed like a good idea at the time.

I’m not sure what I was expecting. I knew Kareem was a basketball player and I knew I would be hearing about his life. I was surprised to learn what a deep thinker he is. How educated and well read. How he lived and dealt with the civil unrest going on in the country while trying to build a professional career.

I think hearing this in Kareem’s voice made it feel so
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
My sixth grader read this for a class where he had to pick from a selection of memoirs, and I decided to read it as well. Kareem seems to be an excellent human being, and his life has intersected with fascinating people and historical times.

Here's what he says about boycotting the 1968 Olympics and "trying to explain why black Americans were in so much pain":
"Sometimes it felt as if we were at the bottom of a well, shouting up to a crowd of people dressed in white summer clothes and having a ga
Scottsdale Public Library
Growing up even I, a kid who never watched or played basketball (outside of P.E. that is), knew the name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I knew he was a superstar on the court, and dabbled in acting (if you haven’t yet seen the film classic, “Airplane” find a copy!) But this autobiography sheds so much light on the life events that transformed Lew Alcindor into the man he is today. Events which include: racism, social awkwardness, a strict upbringing, and a variety of individuals who’ve made a positive imp ...more
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
I listened to Kareem read his book, which helped me more fully appreciate his perspective of growing up African American in the 50's and 60's - the decades covered. Joining in his realisation of the injustices African Americans have faced, face and will continue to face was a stronger experience than I have had before. I liked the central theme of choosing and becoming your name. Something Michelle Obama explored slightly differently in her book. Other themes besides basketball, are education, p ...more
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Although not as focused on basketball as I was expecting this to be, Abdul-Jabbar brings up some really good points about growing up during the days of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Unfortunately, most of the points he raises are still concerns that exist today. I thought this was a good companion piece to The Hate U Give, with the bonus of not having as much sensitive content.
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really good memoir on finding an identity as a star athlete who was world famous even before he was in the NBA. Kareem writes as much about his personal development off the court as his achievements on it. Much respect for his honesty, integrity, and passion for more than just the game.
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-2019
An excellent memoir for sports fans, and non-sports fans alike. This story tells a journey of discovering who you are, and how different people in your life can influence who you become.
Amar Kasapovic
Nov 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The great and powerful Kareem. Inspiration for young adults off and on the court. 🙏🏼
Sep 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend the audio version of Becoming Kareem. To hear this story in his own voice is an incredible addition.
Emily Ann ♡︎♡︎♡︎
i read this for my reading challenge of reading all the 2021 caudill nominees, where i will be picking a third, second, and first place winner for my bookstagram.
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good autobiography of Kareem growing up and his entry into professional basketball. If you are looking for a book about his NBA career, this is not the book for you.
It stars off with a bookish nerd with a love for jazz and education, which ends with him discovering who he is and stepping forward into that life.

Well written and left me wanting more
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm not a basketball fan at all, and I LOVED this book. I couldn't put it down. ...more
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I felt like I knew a bit of what Kareem presented in this book, but a lot of it was new. It felt disjointed at times, but overall I liked it for a middle school/early YA crowd. I definitely want to read his adult stuff, now, too.
Nov 29, 2017 rated it liked it
What if I told you that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, did not play much basketball until middle school? What if I told you that until he was in the NBA, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s name was Lew Alcindor. You can find out these mind boggling facts and many more by reading Becoming Kareem, a compilation of memoirs written by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar himself, with help from Raymond Obstfeld.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was born in 1947 in Harlem, NY. His name was originally
Great Books
May 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ages-12-13
Kareem offers an insightful view of his world as he comes of age during a pivotal time in our nation’s history. He shares how his “coaches” - on and off the court – helped to shape him into a remarkable individual. Reviewer 15
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An inspiring book about a basket ball legend whose success is based on grit and determination. It was exciting to read how Kareem approached basketball and academic pursuit with the same fervour. Kareem was a straight A student who loved reading and had "a passion for writing that ran much deeper than I'd realized." And, he was equally committed to practices which will improve his game.

His childhood was interesting. To understand his growing-up years is to understand the times in which he was gr
Nour Hatim
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really liked reading this book. The way it was written intrigued because it was very relatable. This book was definitely a good reflection of what life in the 1970s was like as a Black Muslim living in America. I like how the author went into detail about all the people that influenced his life, for better and for worse. I recommend this book to everyone who is able to get their hands on it because the story of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's life was so interesting and there is so much we can learn fro ...more
Kathy Beier
Jun 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kathy by: Kathy Brandt
While this book is aimed at the Youth market, as an adult I found it an excellent read, well written with a smooth flow. He writes of the influences of mentors, religion, racism, and basketball (of course) in his search of becoming who you want to be. Very surprised at how much I liked this book.
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Interesting memoir from a truly great player.
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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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“Racists often take their cues on how to act from the way the government behaves. If the government is actively campaigning against racism, they hide their feelings and do nothing. If the government is indifferent to racism by not prosecuting it, then they feel it’s okay to come out of hiding and attack.” 0 likes
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