To the coaches in the National Basketball Association, Dave Cowens is still an all-star. So is Elvin Hayes. So - by unanimous vote of the 11 Western Conference head coaches - is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Fighting Abdul-Jabbar, that is. The Milwaukee spectators at the NBA East-West tussle Feb. 13 won't know their old favorite, the fellow who once lived up to his original middle name (as in Lewis F. Alcindor, and Ferdinard and peace-loving bull) by fleeing the length of the court in a vain effort to avert a one-punch knockdown by burly Dennis Awtrey. The Los Angeles Kareem is different, if his performance in Seattle on Wednesday night is an indication. This time it was Kareem doing the flooring - timber! - as the 7-foot-3 Laker leveled 7-4 Tommy Burleson. Both combatants agreed that Burleson had spent much of his defensive time holding A-J, and finally, when the Laker star started a move near the Sonic foul line and Burleson hooked his arm, eruption. Abdul-Jabbar smacked Burleston from behind, catching him at the temple and sending him crashing.
"I thought he hit me accidentally," said Burleson. "I never saw the punch. It came from the $2 seats. After I found out he did it on purpose, I wanted to redeem myself." And the former N.C. State Wolf did, shaking off the punch and an earlier seige of blurred vision from an accidental poke in the eye by Laker forward C.J. Kupec to score 17 points in the fourth quarter and bag a 118-103 Sonic victory.
Despite the punch and doing the "Ali shuffle" waiting for Burleson to arise. Abdul-Jabbar wasn't ejected. But he fouled out a couple of minutes afterward. "You can only take so much before you reach the boiling point," A-J said . . .