Why Did Kareem Abdul Jabbar Wear Goggles?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. In his 20 years of playing in the NBA, he won the Championship six times and he was named the final MVP in two of these. He became famous for his trademark “skyhook” shot, which helped him establish himself as one of the greatest scorers in the league. Kareem had a spectacular NBA career and one of the things we’ll always remember him for is his trademark goggles. Therefore, we’ll be talking about why Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is fond of wearing goggles in this video.
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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is perhaps the most famous goggle-wearer in the history of the NBA. He started using his signature goggles in 1975 and he would continue wearing them throughout his entire 20-year career. Although it looked fashionable, Kareem didn’t wear those goggles to look good. He wore them to prevent other players from poking his eyes!
Standing at 7 foot 2 inches, Kareem was a tall player but the height was also one of his greatest disadvantages. He was often poked in the eyes by defenders contending for the ball. His first experience of being poked in the eyes was during his college days at UCLA. During one of the games against the University of Houston, his cornea was scratched and this repeated itself during another game with rival USC.
When Kareem was selected with the first overall pick in the 1969 NBA draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, he thought his days of being poked in the eyes was over. However, his greatest fear of being poked in the eyes came back to haunt him in the NBA. During a preseason game against the Boston Celtics, Kareem played at his best as usual and as a player tried to stop him, he caught a fingernail in his left eye. Kareem displayed his anger by punching the backboard stanchion so hard that he broke two bones in his right hand immediately. This caused him to miss the first 16 games of the season but he returned wearing protective goggles.
Kareem joined the Los Angeles Lakers in 1975 and he continued wearing his protective goggles for few years until he decided to abandon them in the 1979 playoffs. However, this was a bad decision for him as he was accidentally poked in the right eye the following year. This time around, Kareem knew that there was no going back so he continued wearing those protective goggles from 1980 until he retired.
Unfortunately, after several years of being jabbed in the eyes, he developed a condition known as corneal erosion syndrome. He would often experience pain because of the scar tissue that had formed on his cornea making his eyes dry up easily. He missed three games in December 1986 because of this condition.
Kareem would end up winning 5 of his 6 championships with the Lakers wearing those goggles. On his retirement, he received standing ovations from both home and away. His former teammate Magic Johnson recalls that “In Abdul Jabbar’s farewell game, many Lakers and Celtics legends participated – every player wore Abdul-Jabbar’s trademark goggles and had to try a skyhook at least once, which led to comic results.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wore goggles to protect his eyes but we’ve seen other players wear them over the years for several other reasons. Before contact lenses and corrective eye surgery became popular, players like Kurt Rambis and Horace Grant wore goggles on the court to help them see better. In 2017, LeBron James suffered a corneal abrasion in his right eye so he decided to show up in his next game wearing a pair of goggles. He appeared uncomfortable with them so he removed it just after 9 minutes of playing with them.
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