The pillars that built the four major sports leagues often played in the 20th century. Two big names who helped push for the inclusion of persons of color in their sport are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, formerly known as Lew Alcindor, and MLB legend Willie Mays. When the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers legend learned of the San Francisco (New York) Giants' passing, he was understandably sad. The Captain publicly expressed his sorrow after his friend had finally moved on from this life at the age of 93.

Abdul-Jabbar was not always in love with basketball. In fact, he dabbled and had such an immense passion for baseball before even becoming the all-time great that he was at UCLA. Mays played a big factor in his love for the game and it still does so up until this very moment. So, the Lakers legend had to outline how much of a good friend the Giants and New York Mets centerfielder was.

“When I was a kid, baseball was my first love and Willie Mays was the reason for that. He made impossible catches and plays that made me believe he could walk on water if he really tried. The true testament to his greatness for me as a kid was that I deeply admired him even though I was a Dodgers fan and he played for the rival Giants. To me, Willie was a one-man game. Later, when I played basketball, I would recall amazing plays that he made and that inspired me to push myself to be more like him. I didn't just want to be great, I wanted to be Willie Mays-great!” Abdul-Jabbar shared.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar meets his MLB idol, Willie Mays

Jun 19, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Phillies first base Bryce Harper stands for a moment of silence in honor of the late Willie Mays before a game against the San Diego Padres at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
© Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Giants legend shared one particular moment that the former will never forget. He told the story of how he became the MLB great's ball boy with such joy as the Lakers legend reminisced.

“In 2005, I attended a dinner honoring the Negro League umpires. For two hours, I sat next to Willie and basked in his charm and positive personality. Throughout the dinner, people would come up to our table and ask him to sign a baseball for them. He politely asked them to leave the balls and he would sign them later. He proceeded to eat, stopping every once in a while to sign a couple of balls, pointing out the owners at their tables, and asking me to run the balls over to them. This went on until all the balls were signed. I couldn't have been happier being his ball boy that evening,” KAJ added.

The Giants centerfielder was great in using baseball to inflict a positive change. But, these mundane moments where he showed greatness were just different. A popular saying is that one ‘must never meet their idols' if they want those legendary images to stay in their heads. But, Mays was different and this story from the Lakers' all-time great all but proved that. He was grounded and beloved due to his very humble demeanor. The stat lines from sites will fade away from the MLB's collective memory at one point but these simple acts of kindness surely will not.