LOS ANGELES — Legendary Lakers center and NBA Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar underwent quadruple coronary-bypass surgery at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center Thursday, but is expected to make a full recovery, hospital officials said.
Abdul-Jabbar was admitted to the hospital with cardiovascular disease and underwent surgery on his 68th birthday, according to UCLA Health. The procedure was performed by Dr. Richard Shemin, UCLA’s chief of cardiac surgery.
“At this time, Abdul-Jabbar would like to thank his surgical team and the medical staff at UCLA, his alma mater, for the excellent care he has received,” a statement released by the hospital at Abdul-Jabbar’s request said. “He is looking forward to getting back to his normal activities soon. He asks that you keep him in your thoughts and, most importantly, cherish and live each day to its fullest.
“For those wanting to send well wishes, he thanks you in advance and asks that you support those in your own community who may be suffering from various health issues.”
Abdul-Jabbar played 20 seasons in the NBA, with the Milwaukee Bucks and Lakers, retiring in 1989. He won six NBA Championships — five with the Lakers — and was a 19-time All-Star and six-time league MVP. He is the league’s all-time scoring leader with 38,387, most courtesy of his famed skyhook.
As Lew Alcindor, he won three national championships with the UCLA Bruins. He changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1971, shortly after winning his first NBA title with Milwaukee.
Abdul-Jabbar has also tried his hand at acting, most famously portraying co-pilot Roger Murdock in the cult comedy hit “Airplane!” He also appeared in films including “Fletch” and “Forget Paris,” and television shows such as “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Diff’rent Strokes,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Scrubs.”
He earned critical acclaim for producing and co-writing the 2011 documentary film “On the Shoulders of Giants,” which documented the story of the all-black professional basketball team the New York Renaissance, or Harlem Rens.
He has also written or co-written a half-dozen books, including his 1983 autobiography, “Giant Steps.”
He announced in 2009 that he was suffering from a form of leukemia, but said two years later his cancer was largely in remission.
On her Twitter page, Laker co-owner and President Jeanie Buss urged Laker fans to “please send all your positive energy to our Captain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Get well soon.”
UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said Abdul-Jabbar is “not only a UCLA legend, he is a national treasure.”
“On behalf of Bruins everywhere, I want to wish him a complete and speedy recovery so he can continue to make a positive impact on society by following his passions and serving as an important cultural voice on the issues of the day,” Guerrero said.