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Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem  

Marty Dobrow

basketball player, was born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, the son of Ferdinand Lewis “Al” Alcindor, a police officer with the New York Transit Authority, and Cora Alcindor, a department-store price checker. The almost thirteen-pound baby arrived in Harlem one day after the major league debut of Jackie Robinson in Brooklyn; as with Robinson, fiercely competitive athletics and the struggle against racial injustice would define much of his life.

From a young age Alcindor was introspective and intense He had an artistic sensibility drawn in part from his father a stern and silent cop who played jazz trombone and held a degree from Juilliard An only child in a strictly Catholic household he moved from Harlem at age three to the Dyckman Street projects on the northern tip of Manhattan a racially mixed middle class community In third grade he was startled to see a class photo that featured him not ...

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Grier, Rosey  

John Hanners

football player, social activist, author, singer-actor, and ordained minister, was born Roosevelt Grier on a farm in Cuthbert, Georgia, the seventh of Joseph and Ruth Grier's eleven children. At age thirteen he moved with his family to Roselle, New Jersey. Offered an athletic scholarship to Penn State University, he enrolled in 1950 and studied psychology, music, and education. His college athletic career was exceptional. Not only did he receive first-team All-American football honors in 1955, but he also set an Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletics of America shot-put record (fifty-eight feet) in track and field.

In 1965 Grier signed with the National Football League's New York Giants for a $500 bonus and a yearly salary of $6,500. During a long career that lasted from 1955 through 1968 Grier was a dominant defensive tackle in an era known for excellent defensive players His size ...

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Jabbar, Kareem Abdul  

Maud C. Mundava

basketball player and coach, actor, and author Born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr and known early on as Lew he was a very big baby about 13 pounds and 22 inches He grew up in a racially mixed middle class neighborhood in Manhattan as the only child of Al Alcindor and Cora Alcindor Al Alcindor was originally from Trinidad and he was a fairly successful jazz musician and a New York City Transit Authority police officer Jabbar grew up a Catholic and attended St Jude s Elementary School and a boys only Catholic school Power Memorial Academy He was a shy and withdrawn child because he was taller than most of the kids his age but he showed a lot of determination in pursuit of excellence He always wanted to be the best As a result of his values and upbringing Jabbar was well spoken stayed out of ...

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Jordan, Michael  

David F. Smydra

basketball player, was born Michael Jeffrey Jordan in Brooklyn, New York, the fourth of five children of James Jordan and Deloris Peoples. The family soon relocated to Wilmington in the parents' home state, North Carolina, where Jordan's father rose to supervisor in a General Electric plant and his mother worked as a bank teller. James Jordan's air force pension boosted the family into the middle class, and they instilled in their children a solid work ethic with an emphasis on loyalty and commitment.

Like his brothers and sisters Jordan was a relatively short child but exceptionally quick He preferred baseball to basketball and pitched several no hitters in Little League Although he was initially a lazy child who bribed his siblings to do his chores Jordan was invigorated by athletic competition Regular one on one basketball games against his older brother Larry fueled a fiery competitiveness in him since ...

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Jordan, Michael  

Jill Dupont

basketball player, businessman, and NBA owner. It is always something of a mystery how those born in unremarkable circumstances achieve transcendence within and beyond their fields of expertise. By whatever alchemy of talent, hard work, and historical circumstance, perhaps no one in recent history has better embodied the earthbound problems and gravity-defying aspirations of the United States than Michael Jordan.

Growing up in Wilmington, North Carolina, Michael Jeffrey Jordan took to heart his parents lessons in diligence and human relations Instructed to treat everyone equally and with courtesy he experienced relatively few of the racial incidents that had occurred routinely in previous generations Jordan s anger flared once as a boy though when in response to a girl s racial slur he planted his popsicle on her head He acquired his work ethic like his height over time fueling himself with the real and imagined slights of ...

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Simpson, O. J.  

Steven J. Niven

football player, sportscaster, and actor, was born Orenthal James Simpson in San Francisco, California, to Jimmie Simpson, a cook, and Eunice Durden, a nurse's aide. The child disliked his unusual first name, which was-given to him by an aunt who had heard of a French actor named Orenthal. Sometime during his childhood—accounts differ as to when—he began using his initials “O. J.,” which friends later adapted to “Orange Juice” and, later, to “Juice.” When O. J. was four, Jimmie Simpson abandoned his wife and family, leaving Eunice to raise four children in a two-bedroom apartment in the run-down Potrero Hill public housing projects near San Francisco's Chinatown. Eunice Simpson worked long hours to provide for her children but it was often a hard struggle When O J contracted rickets as an infant for example he was left bowlegged and in need of leg braces that his ...