In dire need of new running shoes, I finally headed into a New Balance store in San Clemente to purchase some size 11’s. While paying at the register, the issue of height and shoe size came up with a 6-foot-7 store employee. Size 11 isn’t all that big for someone like me—almost 6-foot-4.
As I was leaving, the employee mentioned that his dad was even taller, at 7-foot-2.
“Did he play basketball?” I asked.
“Kareem” was the one-word answer.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, is a living basketball legend. Being a basketball guy, I asked the employee if I could get a photo, and Adam Abdul-Jabbar pleasantly obliged.
But after leaving the store I was troubled. The photo had little to do with Adam. It was all about his dad. Adam has a separate identity, but I didn’t ask him about HIS world.
I googled the young Abdul-Jabbar and learned that he had a troubled relationship with his famous father. I pondered what it might be like to have a celebrity parent.
Probably a double-edged sword.
Wealthy, famous parents can be blessings—guaranteeing lifelong security. Opportunities abound for celebrity offspring. If one’s parent is a famous athlete, entertainer, or politician, then doors magically open.
The downside, of course, is that it’s harder for celebrity kids to self-actualize. Are their successes due to their own merits—or to their parents’ connections? Countless actors like Kiefer Sutherland, Michael Douglas, or Drew Barrymore certainly benefitted from birth circumstances. But Tom Hanks’ son Chet distanced himself from his father’s fame, taking the name Chet Haze and succumbing to drug addiction while dealing cocaine.
Political offspring similarly struggle or flourish. The five children of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were married 19 times. But the son of our 41st President became our 43rd President.
Or take the interesting case of John Harrison, son of General William Henry Harrison, our ninth president. John’s political career was highlighted by four years in Congress. But John’s son, Benjamin, became our 23rd president. So John’s dad was president, and John’s son was president. Was John a comparative failure?
In the sports world there are numerous examples of offspring who just couldn’t live up to their fathers’ legacies. Ted Williams’ son John Henry immediately comes to mind. The younger Williams was largely reviled before he died of leukemia in 2004, less than two years after Ted passed.
And yet there are also countless examples of athletic offspring who shined on their own. Ken Griffey Jr. is the son of a Major League All-Star, but Junior eventually bettered all his dad’s statistics. The younger Griffey hit 630 home runs and received a record 99.32 percent of the votes for induction into baseball’s Hall-of-Fame. Total self-actualization!
In the end, we all have to take responsibility for ourselves while acknowledging that celebrity circumstances involve both blessings and curses.
Adam Abdul-Jabbar might well be a happier person than Kareem, despite scoring 38,387 fewer NBA regular season points than his dad. Who knows? I just wish I’d asked about how HE was doing when we had our photo taken, instead of asking how his father was doing.
NHTI-DELTA DENTAL 5K
Is there a better way to start a weekend than by running a Friday evening 5K? Check out the 12th Annual NHTI-Delta Dental 5K Road race on the NHTI-Concord campus at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 22.
Michigan running back Tom Harmon won the 1940 Heisman Trophy as well as Associated Press “Athlete of the Year” recognition. He was both a bomber and a fighter pilot during World War II and then played in the NFL for the Los Angeles Rams. He was also a movie actor and sports broadcaster, but his son is probably even more famous. Who’s Tom’s son? (Answer follows)
Born Today …
That is to say, sports standouts born on April 21 include Dallas Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo (1980).
Sportsquote “I didn’t hire Scott because he’s my son. I hired him because I’m married to his mother.” – former Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden, on hiring his son as assistant coach
Tom Harmon’s son Mark Harmon was a star quarterback at UCLA before embarking on extraordinary Hollywood acting career which included a long run as Agent Gibbs on NCIS.
Michael Moffett is a Professor of Sports Management for Plymotuh State University and NHTI-Concord. He recently co-authored the critically-acclaimed and award-winning “FAHIM SPEAKS: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back” (with the Marines)—which is available through Amazon.com. His e-mail address is email@example.com.