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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Amar’e Stoudemire and Being Prepared

A surprise guest showed up last night at the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences cocktail reception at the Oak Room — one even taller than Amar'e Stoudemire, the six-foot-ten guest of honor who was being welcomed to town by Donald Trump and the tourism industry. And so as soon as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar walked in, unassumingly wearing a polo shirt and blue jeans, fans immediately spotted him and began asking for autographs. But whenever someone thrust a piece of paper at Abdul-Jabbar to sign, he responded by pulling a stack of his own trading cards from his pocket and handing one over with a signature. "It's nice to be prepared," he said of his counter-move.

The room was abuzz with what Stoudemire could contribute to Knicks, and Abdul-Jabbar weighed in on the subject. "It's not going to be on one person's shoulders," he said. "But Amar'e is an All-Star caliber player, so whenever the Knicks get to the place where they have all the people in place, Amar'e will be one of the principal people that helps make it work. He has a good work ethic and has no problem being a team player. And you need people like that if you're going to put something together."

When asked if he still plays hoops, the man known for his trademark sky hook said that "I was fortunate to have the opportunity that I did, but it's other people's turn now." So what keeps him occupied these days? He's coming out with a documentary called On the Shoulders of Giants during the NBA All-Star weekend in February. It follows the all-black Harlem Rens — "the greatest basketball team you never heard of" — who take on the all-white "Original Celtics" in a pivotal clash of sports and race during the Harlem Renaissance. Jamie Foxx narrates the story that blends animation and 3-D effects and is set to a soundtrack of jazz infused with hip-hop. And how did we learn all of this? By being handed a card that told us so.

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Photo: Arnaldo Magnani/Getty Images