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California Department of Education
News Release
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #23-21
March 29, 2023
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond and Basketball Legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Visit High School Basketball Champions in Oakland

OAKLAND—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and NBA Hall of Fame legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar visited the Oakland Unified School District today to celebrate recent dual basketball state championships by Oakland students and donate more than 500 copies of a cultural book written by Abdul-Jabbar.

The Oakland High School boys’ basketball team won their first state title in program history this month, and Oakland Tech High School’s girls’ basketball team won their third consecutive state title. Abdul-Jabbar took photos with the championship teams and provided autographed copies of his book, On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance, to the student athletes.

“I had a chance to work with Oakland Unified School District students for 10 years. I have had the privilege of watching these student athletes grow and excel on and off the court. The championship does not end with the buzzer; these scholar athletes on the Oakland High School and Oakland Tech High School teams will continue to do great things because of their work on and off the court. I was honored to help celebrate their success with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of our California Education Ambassadors, a basketball legend, and best-selling author and historian—he is truly an icon,” Thurmond said. “Extraordinary models of social justice inspire us to do better and be better. There are few that rival the inspiration of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who has held up a torch to tirelessly lead the way to better educational opportunities for all of California’s students.”

Abdul-Jabbar established the Skyhook Foundation External link opens in new window or tab. with a mission of “giving kids a shot that can’t be blocked” by providing science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) education opportunities and outdoor classroom experiences to underserved communities.

Abdul-Jabbar is considered by many fans and sportswriters to be the greatest basketball player of all time. The 7’2” Basketball Hall of Fame center is famous for his indefensible “skyhook” and dominating the NBA for 20 years while playing for the Milwaukee Bucks External link opens in new window or tab. and Los Angeles Lakers External link opens in new window or tab. and winning six NBA championships. He is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President Barack Obama.

State Superintendent Thurmond has established literacy as a priority and has provided millions in donations for thousands of free digital books for students, who in turn have read more than one million books online. He is working to improve literacy rates specifically for students by the time they reach third grade. Thurmond named Abdul-Jabbar an ambassador to the California Department of Education (CDE) in 2021 to serve as an informal advisor to the State Superintendent and the CDE on supporting the educational needs of California students.

Anyone wishing to support school literacy efforts or the initiative to ensure that students learn to read by third grade should email

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Tony Thurmond — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Wednesday, March 29, 2023
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