Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once sued an NFL player with a name eerily identical to his for using his likeness without any compensation.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was already a basketball sensation well before changing his name to that from Ferdinand Lew Alcindor. He was a standout at UCLA and the consensus number one overall pick in the 1969 NBA Draft after winning three straight NCAA championships.
After joining the NBA, he won an NBA title alongside Oscar Robertson on the Milwaukee Bucks under a new name, a name that basketball fans universally equate to overwhelming dominance. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would eventually join the Los Angeles Lakers and continue to rock his iconic no. 33 jersey while winning 5 more championships.
Kareem retired as the all-time leading scorer in NBA history and perhaps the greatest basketball player who ever lived. Well into his retirement, the ‘Hook Shot’ aficionado seemingly got so popular with the next generation of North American athletes that an NFL player by the name of Sharmon Shah adopted his name and his jersey number.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sued Sharmon Shah for stealing his likeness.
Shah not only changed his name to Karim Abdul Jabbar, but he also started to wear Kareem’s no. 33 jersey after getting drafted by the Miami Dolphins. The running back changed his name during the final year of his collegiate career at the same university the Basketball HoFer carved out his own legacy 3 decades prior: UCLA.
With these glaring similarities, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar decided to file a lawsuit against the Dolphin, requesting a federal judge to award him for damages and immediately curb the sale of any merchandise with his name and jersey number on it.
Random quality Dolphins player RB Karim Abdul Jabbar (1996-99). pic.twitter.com/9XdMj9H1Rm
— Dolphins History (@DolphinsHistory) August 17, 2021
The reasoning behind the number, according to Karim aka Sharmon Shah, was that he was inspired by Tony Dorsett, one of the greatest RBs in Dallas Cowboys history. As for the name, he apparently had no clue another Abdul-Jabbar with the same first name existed and had that name bestowed upon him by an imam.
“Abdul means the servant of the most generous Karim. No one can be the Karim. No one can be the Jabbar. That’s the Creator. We can only be Abdul, a servant,” said the young Jabbar.
The lawsuit against Karim was settled out of court likely for a lump-sum of money which remains undisclosed.