I remember watching Airplane! for the first time when I was younger. I came across it on TV and always had heard how funny it was. And five minutes into watching it, I recognized someone. I looked and my dad and said, "Hey, isn't that some basketball player?"
Yep, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, right then and there on my screen, not playing hoops, but playing a part in one of Leslie Nielsen's most famous films. But my dad didn't say anything about him not playing defense.
And with Nielsen's passing over the weekend, people far and wide are remembering the funnyman, including a heartfelt take from the NBA's all-time leading scorer.
Abdul-Jabbar posted this on his website earlier today:
For me, it was a real pleasure to know and work with Leslie Nielsen. He was a consummate professional when the cameras were rolling. And during down time he was a notorious practical joker. He would often engage the casual acquaintance in what seemed to be a serious convsersation while he manipulated a whoopie cushion causing that person to look around and try to figure out what exactly was going on.
He did this to me the first time I met him when he started talking about the food they served on the set in disparaging ways and I got real quiet until I noticed he had his hand in his pocket on the device, which made me break out into a big grin as I figured out his antics. He kept everybody in a light mood and made the set the alot of fun so that we could all make a great movie together. I don’t think anyone who ever worked with him will ever forget him. Making Airplane was a great experience for me and Leslie helped make it very special. He will be greatly missed.