CHICAGO -- When 15-year-old Fred Coffey heard NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would be visiting his Chicago school during the NCAA tournament, he expected the former Los Angeles Lakers star to talk about the game.
Instead, the Hall of Famer spoke to hundreds of students Sunday about black inventors and encouraged them to seek careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
"There are only about 450 jobs in the NBA and some of them are taken, but there are thousands of jobs in science and engineering," he told students at Dr. Martin Luther King Preparatory High School on the city's South Side.
Abdul-Jabbar scored 38,387 points during his 20-year NBA career with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. The former UCLA star remains the league's all-time leading scorer.
But since he retired in 1989 he has been involved in education and social justice causes. His Skyhook Foundation works to improve children's lives through education and sports. On Sunday, he gave out copies of his new book, What Color is My World: The Lost History of African American Inventors.
He said a generation of young people who want to be athletes and entertainers instead of innovators and scholars inspired him to write the book.
"So many young people in inner-city communities only see themselves as being able to be successful in sports and entertainment. If you go to my neighborhood in Harlem and talk to the young people, over 90 percent of them want to LeBron James or Jay-Z," he said. "They have no idea what potential they have beyond those two areas."
The lively event -- led by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn -- featured the school's drum line and hearty cheers for the NBA great.
Students like 16-year-old Victoria Scott embraced Abdul-Jabbar's message of academic excellence. Scott, who is leaning toward a career as publicist, said she would a reconsider a job in science or engineering.
Students familiar with Abdul-Jabbar's athletic accomplishments were surprised to learn about his academic endeavors.
"The presentation gave me a different perspective of Kareem, his life and what he did after basketball. You never hear about a basketball player after he's done with the league," said Coffey, who is torn between a career in engineering or architecture. "I didn't know Kareem wrote books or made movies."