Sport: An Ominous Giant's Farewell

The great -- sometimes grating -- Abdul-Jabbar nears the finish

If he was forbidding to start with and inaccessible for so long, consider that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once looked for what he calls "positive role models" and found them in inanimate objects. "The Empire State Building," he says. "The redwoods." They represent an 86-in. man and his 24-year journey from New York City to California, nearly done. History's greatest basketball player is in his last season.

"At first," he says, "basketball was something I did when the lights were on in the playground just because I liked it." He was Lew Alcindor then, a bookish Harlem Catholic constructed of high-tension wires connected...

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