Meeting Kareem Abdul-Jabbar… At A Yankees’ Game

Kareem, Aristotle "Mugsy" Sakellaridis & Hank Steinbrenner

BRONX, NY – One of the most priceless experiences in the world is watching a Yankees game with the owner of the team. It was October 19, 2010, Game 4 of the American League Championship Series and I was inside Suite 44 at Yankee Stadium, located in the mezzanine section around the third base line. You could look directly into the Yankees dugout from up there, and I guess The Boss, George Steinbrenner, gave the architect direct orders of where he wanted his view. The Yanks were losing this game and Hank was getting all fidgety as the Texas Rangers were manhandling his team. Catcher Jorge Posada struck out and Hank just shook his head and asked, “That’s your man isn’t it?” I responded, “That ain’t my man!” Hank looked at me and said, “He stinks behind the plate. We’ll make him leave his mitt home next year and make him the DH. All he’ll need to bring to Spring Training are his batting gloves.”

We then went inside where the food was displayed. They had one hell of a buffet set up- steak, potatoes, corn, chicken, simply yummy stuff. NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was standing by the bar talking to two guests. They both were staring upward at the over seven-foot-tall basketball legend. I tapped Hank with my elbow and motioned with my head toward Jabbar as if to let Hank know, look who’s here. Hank glanced over and smiled, “Oh yeah, Lew Alcindor,” preferring to call him by his birth name. “Let’s go over there,” I screeched. Hank responded, “Nah, leave the man alone.” “Oh, come on, he’s in your suite, let’s go say hi,” I said.

Aristostle “Mugsy” Sakellaridis

I led Hank over toAbdul-Jabbar, as the two starstruck guests were wrapping up their conversation with him. Hank would always shy away whenever we would approach someone, so as soon as Abdul-Jabbar looked toward us I blurted out, “Hey can I ask you something?” The giant of a man and sometimes actor, who played a pilot in the comedy Airplane, shot me a glare that seemed to translate into, “What the fuck do you want to ask me?” Before I would let this giant of a man, who seemed like a peaceful Muslim, utter the words, “F*ck off!,” I hit him with my question, “What was Bruce Lee like?” Abdul-Jabbar’s eyes turned wide toward me, and I truly believe Hank was stunned at what I wanted to know about Kareem’s co-star in his last flick Game of Death, before Lee’s untimely death in 1973.

Abdul-Jabbar finally spoke,

“Let me tell you something, Bruce Lee is the reason why I prolonged my basketball career until the age of forty-one. He lectured me on the importance of leg strength and taught me exercises to keep my legs strong. That contributed to me playing way past my prime.”

Hank responded, “Wow really?!” Abdul-Jabbar went on and on about Lee’s philosophies and workout methods.

Hank and I couldn’t get another word in, as Kareem spoke for what seemed to be a whole inning. It got to the point where Hank and I had to moonwalk away from him. We made it back to our seats when Hank shot out the line of the night, “Man, can that guy talk.”  I added, “That’s what you get for not asking him a basketball question Or a question about the Koran.” He glared at me and we both broke into laughter, even though the Yankees were getting their asses kicked. The real kicker is we never introduced ourselves to the Hall of Fame Legend.

That’s all. Feel free to comment below and come back tomorrow for MTM Hall of Famer, Junoir Blaber.

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About Aristotle "Mugsy" Sakellaridis 24 Articles
Aristotle "Mugsy" Sakellaridis is the junkiest of baseball junkies. He plays in 4 leagues, well past his 40th birthday, and spends the winter in Florida shagging flies at Yankees minor league complexes. He's also a retired Riker's Island police officer - having worked the night shift for 20+ years.