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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Abdul-Jabbar Fuels Local Kids' Hoop Dreams

Even at the age of 50, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar could probably still pick up some spare change playing for Russia's Red Army squad. But for now he'll stick with teaching hoops to Russian kids.


The former Los Angeles Lakers center is in Moscow to participate in a one-week basketball camp for 40 top teenage players.


Those running the event, which is financed and run as a promotion by the shoe and sportswear company adidas, are hopeful that just being able to practice with the 2.2-meter former NBA great will inspire participants to greater things, even if it does not change the face of Russian basketball.


"Any boy standing on the same court as Abdul-Jabbar who sees just some of the things he can do will keep this memory for the whole of his basketball days," said Yevgeny Gomelsky, head coach of the Commonwealth of Independent States basketball team that won the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics.


Abdul-Jabbar was a little subdued at a press conference Monday at the Baltschug Hotel -- understandably, since his mother had died shortly before he left home. His brief replies to journalists' questions were largely inaudible. Cameras flashed in unison with each rare moment of animation.


Although his managers are busy hunting down decent Thai and Turkish restaurants, he said he otherwise wouldn't have time to explore Moscow.


Nevertheless, he wished Russians well. "I'm very happy to see you've managed to come through such times and can still smile," he said.


Abdul-Jabbar dominated professional basketball in the United States in the 1970s and early 1980s, and was voted Most Valuable Player a record six times.


He was without doubt a great catch for the camp promoters, but the commercial trappings seemed to tire him a bit. As he sat amidst company logos and merchandise, Abdul-Jabbar grimaced obligingly as he was presented a pair of size 52 1/2 company sneakers to mark his participation.