According to Sports Illustrated, Dr. Solomon Hughes, former California Golden Bears center, the actor who plays Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on HBO’s Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. He is one of two former Cal athletes to portray Lakers players on the series, while the other is Austin Aaron, a former football player who plays Lakers backup forward Mark Landsberger.
“It’s an opportunity to try to honor this character and his importance to this country. What he means to this world, what he means to black history specifically,” Hughes told Esquire last month of his portrayal of Abdul-Jabbar. “I’m grateful that we’re doing a television series so you can see the full breadth of this Kareem character.”
Before becoming an actor, Hughes played basketball professionally in Mexico and for the Harlem Globetrotters. One of the reasons he was chosen to portray Kareem, besides his acting skills and demeanor, was his gaming experience and size. “You can’t fake it,” co-creator Max Borenstein said on TV’s Top 5 Podcast. “A person who is seven feet tall looks like they are seven feet tall. And moreover, as you know, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is an intellectually superior figure like this Gravitas, a connoisseur of the culture, of jazz. He’s much more than just his personality on a basketball court. And that was extremely difficult. And we didn’t think we would find the right man.”