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Lew Alcindor, basketball player, 61st Street and Amsterdam Avenue, New York, May 2, 1963

Richard Avedon's black and white photograph shows Lew Alcindor, a high school basketball star, as self-confident and physically powerful. Alcindor, who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, went on to become the National Basketball Association's leading scorer and winner of six championships.

This photograph embodies the stories of two superstars—artist and athlete—in their own professions, and addresses an era that embraced the civil rights movement, fashion photography, and the idea of sports star as superhero.

Richard Avedon
American 1923?2004
Lew Alcindor, basketball player, 61st Street and Amsterdam Avenue, New York, May 2, 1963
1963 (printed 1990)
Gelatin silver print
The Alfred and Ingrid Lenz Harrison Purchase Fund and gift of The Richard Avedon Foundation
©The Richard Avedon Foundation

Avedon and Alcindor
Fashion Forward
Sports Superstar

SportsConnectEd: Search ArtsConnectEd for images of sports in the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. You can begin with this Art Collector set about sports and games, or create your own set of images from scratch using Art Finder and Art Collector. Get started by watching the short video tours on the ArtsConnectEd homepage.  

Fashion in Action: Search magazines or sports Web sites (e.g., for photographs of athletes that appear to be influenced by contemporary fashion photography. Search fashion Web sites for images you think are influenced by sports photography. Select an example of each to compare and contrast in a written essay or multi-media presentation.  

Take a Shot: Create a photograph of a friend, family member, or team member that shows viewers something about that person's personality, interests, or strengths. Collaborate with your classmates to create a photo exhibition in your classroom, or online for the world to see.  

Learn About a Local Photographer: Explore photographer Wing Young Huie's Web site to learn how many of his photographic projects document the socioeconomic and cultural realities of American society, much of it centered on the urban cores of his home state of Minnesota.  

Tour the MIA!: Visit the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for a discussion-based tour on just about any topic, including sports or fashion. Click here to get a tour request form. To request a tour of The Sports Show on view at the MIA from February 19 to May 13, 2012, click here.  

Honor the Harlem Renaissance: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar created a documentary, "On the Shoulders of Giants: The Story of the Greatest Basketball Team You Never Heard Of," which tells the story of the Harlem Rens team. Research the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s, a period of intense literary, musical, and intellectual creativity associated with Harlem, a predominately African American neighborhood in New York City. In small groups, develop an outline and storyboards for a documentary about an individual or group of people (e.g., writers, artists, athletes) who were part of the Harlem Renaissance.  

Compare & Contrast: Click here to view a video showing Lew Alcindor and other members of the 1963 All-American High School Basketball Team in a television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in March 1963, about two months before the photograph was taken. In writing or conversation compare and contrast Alcindor?s appearance on television with the way Avedon presented him in the photograph.  

January 2012