Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, New York Historian

Here’s a nice change of pace: A legendary sports figure has come out of retirement to write a book about the past, and this time we’re pleased about it. No, it’s not O.J.’s scribblings; instead, legendarily goggled Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has published a work of history. On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance hit the shelves yesterday, according to an NPR report. It’s full of fascinating details about upper-Manhattan athletics in the age of the Cotton Club — like that the Cotton Club’s main competitor, the Renaissance Casino and Ballroom, hosted its own basketball team, the Harlem Rens. At the Renaissance, the dance floor doubled as a basketball court, and a Rens game reportedly featured the first interracial jump ball in basketball history. But Abdul-Jabbar has harsh words for another rival, Harlem Globetrotters, whose clowning around he associates with the Cotton Club’s tradition of catering to a white audience. You can only imagine what he must have to say about the Washington Generals.

The Harlem Renaissance, On and Off the Court [NPR]