Los Angeles Lakers Legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Reveals He Chose Jersey Number Because of NFL Fullback

by Joe Rutland

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his career are a tour of championship success from UCLA to the National Basketball Association. He always wore jersey No. 33.

Where did he get the idea for that number? Well, wonder no more as Abdul-Jabbar, an NBA Hall of Famer, reveals that New York Giants fullback Mel Triplett was his favorite player in the National Football League.

“He wasn’t like a major scoring threat or anything,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says in a video compilation put together by NFL Films. “But he was a tough guy. I thought I could play like him, be the big running back. Of course, I was the long non-running back who ended up playing basketball.

“He wore No. 33 and that’s why I wore No. 33,” Abdul-Jabbar says. “In seventh grade, we got new basketball uniforms at my grade school and they had a No. 33. I picked it and from that point until the end of my career, I was still wearing No. 33.”

Watch Abdul-Jabbar talk about his love for No. 33 at the 5:04 mark of this NFL Films video. Late sportscaster Chris Schenkel opens this portion up by turning on a film projector and guiding us back to watching NFL play from 1960.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Tops NBA’s All-Time Scorer List

In his playing days for the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers, Abdul-Jabbar (known as Lew Alcindor at UCLA before changing his name) was a prolific scorer. Defenders would try and get him out of position, but the sturdy center was up to the challenge.

Few players could stop his patented “Sky Hook” as he crossed into the lane and put it up with relative ease.

Abdul-Jabbar scored 38,387 career points and is still No. 1 in the NBA All-Time Scoring ranks.

Kobe Bryant, who sits fourth on the list behind Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, and LeBron James, finished his career with 33,643 points. Fans earlier this year fondly remembered Bryant scoring his first point in an NBA game.

Bryant, then an 18-year-old, scored his first NBA point on Nov. 5, 1996, against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. He played 20 seasons with the Lakers.

Point No. 1 of Bryant’s career came at the free-throw line during his second NBA game. He played just three minutes, missing his only field-goal attempt and going 1-for-2 from the line.

His first basket didn’t come until the following night when he scored five points against the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets are the team that selected him with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 draft. They subsequently before traded his rights to the Lakers for center Vlade Divac.