SKY HOOK, CALIFORNIA — NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar started life as Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr., and if all the paperwork he filed in court this week goes through, he’ll be spending at least the next four years as Lew Alcindor once again.
Citing issues that Muhammad Ali, Jr. — son of boxing legend Muhammad Ali — has recently had not once, but twice, while flying into and around the United States, Mr. Abdul-Jabbar said in court filings that he had decided “drastic measures were needed to protect” his freedom of travel. Ali Jr. has been stopped twice in relation to the presidential administration’s highly controversial travel ban on people from six predominantly Muslim countries. Both Jabbar and Ali are American citizens.
“It’s obvious this country elected, by a historically narrow margin, an administration that will seek to drive a wedge between Americans,” read court documents filed in court to process Jabbar’s name change, “and that the wedge the president intends to use is religion, among others. Mr. Abdul-Jabbar believes in freedom of religion, but also in protecting his ability to travel freely around the country.”
Kareem’s paperwork indicates that the second time Ali Jr. was briefly stopped by TSA on a domestic flight was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Though he says he’ll still go by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for film and television appearances, and he’ll retain the name for a pen name to write his books under, that legally all his documents will bear his original, birth name.
“But I will still hold and keep to all the practices and doctrines of the Muslim faith I choose to keep,” Jabbar wrote, “because a name is one thing, but what’s in my heart and mind can never be taken from me.”
Though he intends to keep practicing Islam in a “proud, devout, unabashed way,” Jabbar says that if the climate in America ends up becoming too Islamaphobic, he believes he may have found another way to thwart Bannon administration policies like “so-called extreme vetting,” papers show.
“When they ask me what my religion is,” Jabbar said, “I’ll just slap ’em on the back, tell them I know Jesus loves me, and make them think I’m a Christian. Seems as good a plan as any, since ideological vetting is kinda impossible anyway, since people can lie one way or the other regardless.”
The court documents show that Jabbar is asking for the ability to switch back to his preferred name “anywhere between two and eight years from now.”
“My hope is that watching this current regime bumble and stumble around and generally fail at everything they do,” Jabbar writes, “will help voters remove them from power. Once that happens, we can get this country back on the right track, and I can start going by Kareem Abdul Jabbar legally once more. Until then, I respectfully submit this request to change my name back to Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. as soon is as legally possible.”
Representatives for Jabbar’s most famous teammate, Earvin Johnson, said that they too are considering legal name changes.
“This administration currently in power is a little bit on the Super-Jesus tip,” Johnson’s rep said, “and so they see the word ‘Magic’ in someone’s name and they’re going to assume that person is a wizard, witch, or warlock, and might put him or her on a terrorist watch list.”
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