Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Calls Tartino’s Depiction of Bruce Lee Racist

The former NBA player and Hall of Famer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, comes out to speak about Tarantino‘s depiction of his late friend Bruce Lee. The now 72 year old athlete was not happy with the way the legendary martial artist was portrayed and/or written, and believes that the depiction lacked a cultural awareness in the character.

Kareem first met the martial artist while studying martial arts at UCLA. Lee took Kareem under his wing, somewhat, and taught the 7 foot 2 inch athlete martial arts. Kareem even credits Lee for teaching him discipline and saying that without Lee he wouldn’t have gone 20 years in the NBA without injury. Kareem developed a close friendship with the star, even going on to star with him in the 1978 film “Game of Death“, Bruce Lee’s final film with his death being in 1973.

Kareem posted a thesis length essay on how Tarantino disrespected the memory his late friend Bruce Lee. He went on to call it racist and sloppy, saying that Tarantino has a responsibility as a director and writer to have Lee portrayed on screen as he was in life. Even going on to say that Tarantino is one of his favorite filmmakers, he said that Tarantino’s depiction of the character had a “lapse in cultural awareness”, then going on to talk about Bruce Lee’s real life frustrations with the depiction of Asian people within films. Kareem then spoke about his times with Lee in public, where people would loudly and proudly challenge him to a fight and Lee would of course politely decline. This entire essay can be seen on The Hollywood Reporter (link to the essay down below).

Brad Pitt Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Kareem of course is not the first one to vent their aggression towards the depiction of Bruce Lee. The first being Lee’s own family member, Shannon Lee. His own daughter came out to speak about Tarantino’s depiction of her father, saying that the movie portrayed him as cocky and arrogant.

If you liked “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” or even if you hated it, it goes to show that the movie is gaining a lot of heat for their depiction of the famed martial artist. What do you think, do you think that Tarantino was justified in the way that he wrote Lee? Or was it perhaps a little over the top?


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