Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is best known for what he did as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks. However, the 74-year old Basketball Hall of Famer also made an impact on the big screen with his roles in Airplane! and Game of Death, which featured Bruce Lee. PopCulture.com recently caught up with Abdul-Jabbar, who revealed who he was "trying to emulate" when appearing in movies and TV shows.
"The movie I did with Bruce was incredible because I got to go to Hong Kong to shoot it, and I got to see Hong Kong while it was still British, which was very interesting, so I'd say that is one I like," Abdul-Jabbar told PopCulture. "And then being able to make a movie like Airplane!, an all-time comedy, is just serendipity, I guess. I was lucky to get the opportunity to do that. It was a fun thing to do, it was just something to try a hand at. I guess I was trying to emulate Jim Brown, he made the transition from sports to acting."
Game of Death was Abdul-Jabbar's film debut, which was released in 1972. But when the NBA legend appeared in Airplane! in 1980, he drew another group of fans with the portrayal of his character co-pilot Roger Murdock. He went on to have roles in other movies such as Fletch, Troop Beverly Hills and Forget Paris. Abdul-Jabbar also appeared in various TV shows such as Full House, Living Single, Amen, Everybody Loves Raymond, Martin, Diff'rent Strokes, 21 Jump Street and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Abdul-Jabbar's role in Airplane! stands out because the film became a commercial and critical success. When asked if he thought Airplane! would become a classic comedy film, Abdul-Jabbar said: "No, you have no idea. To me, it was interesting, to be in a movie with Lloyd Bridges and Ethel Merman, well that's out of the boot and it was fun, it was fun making it. It took a couple of weeks and I got a chance to do something different for the soul. That was a lot of fun."
Abdul-Jabbar most recently appeared in a documentary on the History Channel called Fight the Power: The Movements That Changed America. And when it comes to the future, Abdul-Jabbar is looking to continue to stay busy with various projects.
"My production partner, Deborah Morales wants to get us involved in all of these types of stories because we think that this is our sweet spot and what we can do the best," Abdul-Jabbar said. "So, I hope to get the opportunity to do more stuff like this. We have a lot of really great stories and projects that we can share with people, and hope to get some of them on the screen."