Kareem Abdul-Jabbar pleased to reconnect with George Hejduk
By Adam Jardy The Columbus Dispatch • Monday November 9, 2015 4:15 PM
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For the first time in more than a half-century, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar got a chance to say thanks.
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On Oct. 30, 2015, Abdul-Jabbar finally got George’s last name – Hejduk – and a chance to properly credit a man who had a profound impact on his career.
“It certainly was meaningful to me because I just wanted to say thanks and see how he was doing and how his life went,” Abdul-Jabbar told The Dispatch today. “It was amazing for me because I never knew George’s last name. When I was a kid, he was just George. He helped my grade-school coach.”
Following an Oct. 29 interview with Abdul-Jabbar on ESPN radio show “Mike and Mike in the Morning,” Hejduk’s son, Frankie, began tweeting that it was his father that taught the legendary center his famous sky hook. After reading a Dispatch article later that day, Abdul-Jabbar reconnected with the elder Hejduk the following day.
It was a detail in his life that Abdul-Jabbar said he was happy to fill in.
“The article that I saw, it was wonderful for me to finally make that connection again because he gave me something that has been a very special part of who I am and my success as a professional athlete,” he said. “Beyond the eighth grade, either he moved away from the neighborhood (or something) but I certainly stopped seeing him. George was going to college, so he had his own life to live, and I went on. I never knew George’s last name. I asked Sal and Sal didn’t remember because Sal had a couple guys that helped him. I just lost touch with him.”
The two spoke for about half an hour, with Hejduk telling stories of playing Abdul-Jabbar on the playground and losing to the eighth-grader in a game of two-on-two.
“It was great because he filled in a lot of missing spots in my memory, like what I was all about at that time,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “I was able to get observations from someone that was older than me, so he filled in on the type of person I was at the time. He said I was really dedicated.”
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“I put the hard work in, but if it wasn’t for guys like George, I wouldn’t have made it,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “It’s a credit to the people that help you along the way with little things that end up being so crucial to your success.”
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Hejduk, George [MC1965]
[JR: A happy ending to the story.]
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