Although the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) doesn't get a great deal of attention, the volunteer committee that helps choose new U.S. commemorative coin designs is about to get an injection of star power: Basketball Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has accepted a position on the committee. In addition to his instant name recognition (and unmistakable 7'2" frame!), the sports legend brings his lifetime love of coin collecting to the job.
Abdul-Jabbar is replacing outgoing committee member Steve Roach, who also serves as the editor-at-large for Coin World.
The list of professional accomplishments on Kareem's résumé are as impressive as they are numerous. First and foremost, he is recognized as one of the greatest basketball players that ever lived. Before playing professionally, Abdul-Jabbar (née Lew Alcindor) was unstoppable at UCLA, helping build a legendary basketball program at the university. In the pros, Kareem became the all-time leading scorer in National Basketball Association (NBA) history thanks in part to his mastery over the "skyhook," a unique shot of Abdul-Jabbar's own creation that was visually graceful and virtually impossible to defend.
Over the course of a two-decade playing career, Kareem garnered six Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards, tied with Michael Jordan for the most by any individual. Far from being a one-man show, Kareem also played for an astounding six NBA championship-winning teams—once with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971 and five more times with the Los Angeles Lakers during the 1980s. Aside from being a prolific scorer, Abdul-Jabbar was also known for his defensive prowess: He was named the most outstanding defender at his position 11 times, and still ranks third all-time in blocked shots and rebounds.
More Than a Ballplayer
While the artistry and tactical genius of the skyhook helped separate Kareem from his peers on the hardwood, he has continued to draw acclaim and notoriety off the court. He is an outspoken activist, intellectual, and pop culture icon. He even appeared in the Bruce Lee film Game of Death along with other cameos in the media. (Interestingly, while working on the film, he says Lee gave him his first gold in the form of a tael bar.) In addition to co-authoring a number of non-fiction works, Abdul-Jabbar regularly contributes to the Washington Post and is a columnist for Time magazine. He has even served as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. State Department.
In a recent interview after accepting the new position, Abdul-Jabbar shared some background on his love of coin collecting. He focuses on 19th-century $20 Gold Double Eagle coins, the largest U.S. coin denomination ever issued for circulation. The most prized coin in his collection is a 1799 $10 Gold Eagle that has been graded MS 64.
With so much wisdom, experience, and fame in his corner, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar should provide a fresh voice to the CCAC.
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