Why Did Kareem Abdul Jabbar Wear Goggles?

Every athlete, regardless of stature or status, has to deal with physical issues at some point in their career. While it’s easy to assume top players at the peak of their physical abilities are able to stay ahead of injuries, that’s not true. Most get sidelined at one point or another.

A big example of that is Kareen Abdul Jabbar. The hall of famer had one of the most impressive legacies in history, but he had his share of injuries too. This guide will look at one of his most famous by studying why he wore his trademark goggles, and the story behind them.

A Difference of Severity

In sports, there are two types of injuries. The ones that keep players sidelined, and more minor ailments that they try to push through. Something like a torn ACL, broken ankle, bruised thighs, or damaged shoulder all fall under the serious category and lead to missed games.

In contrast, ailments like sprained fingers, bruised thighs, or sore ankles, are all minor. The general rule of thumb is that if a player can still get out on the court and perform to the best of their abilities, they will do so. 

That’s why hurt knees are such a big deal, and why eye injuries aren’t as bad. Being able to see is a necessary part of basketball, but a small cornea scratch isn’t enough to hinder someone. That player just has to reduce the risk of reinjury, and wear protection.

A Poke in the Eye

Kareem Adbul Jabbar is a legendary basketball player who rivals the likes of Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. However, that didn’t mean we was invincible. Though the big man had an exceptionally long career where he avoided most injuries, his eyes were another story.

He first ran into issues in college. During his junior year an eye scratch during a game against Cal sidelined him for the remainder of the contest. He would go on to miss two more games (Stanford and Portland) as a result of the injury before bouncing back.

The next few years went without any issues, but he eventually suffered another cornea scratch that was a bit more serious. Not only that, but the big man fought for so many rebounds that he often got poked or accidentally hit in the eyes while playing down low.

Such issues came to a head in 1975. Fed up with all of the small annoyances, and after suffering through a series of painful corneal abrasions, Jabbar decided to tackle the issue head on. He put on a pair of protective goggles, and then never took them off.

The eyewear would stay on his face for nearly the rest of his career.

Not the Only One

Though Jabbar is certainly the most well-known player to wear goggles, he’s not the only NBA athlete to protect themselves from eye injuries. His teammate James Worthy threw on some lenses during the 1984-1985 season after a scratched cornea.

In addition, Amare Stoudemire also permanently wore eye protection after suffering a detached retina during the 2000’s. Kurt Rambis wore glasses in order to improve his sight, as did Horace Grant during his run with the Bulls in the 90’s.

Eyesight and protection are the two main reasons players wear goggles. The above athletes are all examples of that, and they aren’t the only ones. Other greats have worn them for short periods of time, including Hakeem Olajuwon, Ben Wallace, and Dwyane Wade.

Final Words

Kareem Adbul Jabbar is one of the most famous basketball players of all time, and he was known for his goggles. While a scratched eye isn’t career-ending, it does hurt quite a bit. It can get worse too. His signature eyewear made sure that never happened.

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