Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a first-ballot NBA Hall of Famer, is widely considered one of the greatest players in NBA history amongst his peers, current NBA players, and NBA fans alike. During his 20 year NBA playing career, Abdul-Jabbar won six NBA championships, five with the Los Angeles Lakers, and won a league-record six MVP awards. Abdul-Jabbar is also the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points.
Abdul-Jabbar retired from the NBA in 1989 as a Los Angeles Laker. After retiring from the NBA, he worked as an assistant for the Los Angeles Clippers and Seattle SuperSonics and was the head coach of the Oklahoma Storm for one season. Abdul-Jabbar returned to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2005 as a special assistant coach to then Los Angeles Lakers head coach, Phil Jackson–he retired from coaching in 2011.
In 2011, the Los Angeles Lakers and Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) commissioned a statute of Abdul-Jabbar’s likeness as a thank you for his significant contributions to the Los Angeles Lakers franchise during his 14-year career with the team (1975-1989). Abdul-Jabbar was integral to the success of the championship Laker teams of the 1980s, a period in which the team won five NBA championships (1980, 1982, 1985,1987, 1988).
In Fall 2011, the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany was awarded the Abdul-Jabbar commission. The lead artists on the Abdul-Jabbar commission were Julie and Omri Amrany, co-founders of The Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany, and their son, Itamar Amrany.
Previously, the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany completed a sports commission from the Los Angeles Lakers to honor Laker great Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson in 2003.
The family-based team of co-lead artists each had a specific role in the creation of the sculpture. Julie Rotblatt-Amrany focused on portraiture, Omri Amrany on the void into action, and Itamar Amrany on the figure. The lead artists frequently communicated with the team, AEG, and Abdul-Jabbar to keep them aware of each stage in the creation process. When it was time to select the statue’s pose, the Los Angeles Lakers provided the artists with various photos of Abdul-Jabbar during his 14-year tenure with the team.
Julie Rotblatt-Amrnay, co-lead artist, developed two designs for the team and Abdul-Jabbar to choose. Ultimately, Abdul-Jabbar’s signature ‘Majestic Skyhook shot’ best embodied him as a Los Angeles Laker. To enhance the figure’s pose, Omri Amrany, co-lead artist, designed a void in the base that signified a cultural statement of Abdul-Jabbar rising to triumph.
“The viewer sees Kareem rising to make the hook shot; gravity is eliminated reflecting super-realism that also makes the work a contemporary fine art contribution,” said Omri Amrany, co-founder of the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany.
To ensure quality control over the figure’s artistic statement, Abdul-Jabbar visited the Fine-Art Studio in Highland Park, IL, during the approval stage (clay).
“Kareem’s reflections and observations always added to the piece as a work of art,” said Julie Rotblatt Amrany, co-founder of the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany.
After the artists received approval from Abdul-Jabbar, the Lakers, and AEG, the clay was cast in marine silicone bronze with purple and gold patina with pigment. The Abdul-Jabbar sculpture was complete in early November 2012; in total, from concept to creation, the sculpture took about 12 months.
On Friday, November 16, 2012, the Los Angeles Lakers held an unveiling ceremony for the recently completed Abdul-Jabbar sculpture. The finished figure stood 16 feet tall and weighed over 1600 pounds. Numerous national media outlets such as Reuters, the Associated Press, and CBS Sports covered the unveiling ceremony.
In attendance were the family, friends, former teammates, coaches, and fans of Abdul-Jabbar. NBA legends such as Shaquille O’Neal shared personal tributes, jokes, and well-wishes during the unveiling ceremony.
The lead artists were also in attendance to help unveil the sculpture. “It was exhilarating for us to experience this event as a family,” said Julie Rotblatt Amrany. “We were so honored to work with the team to honor Kareem and his significant contributions to the Los Angeles Lakers.”
Today, the Abdul-Jabbar figure sits among an elite group of professional athlete sculptures such as Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Jerry West outside the Staples Center in Star Plaza. To learn more about the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany and commission opportunities, please visit https://bit.ly/2D2fOzA.