View from the top: life of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; Giant Steps, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Peter Knobler. New York: Bantam Books. 324 pp. $14.95.
Tell-it-like-it-is journalism, so popular today with celebrities who collaborate with someone else on their autobiographies, often provides the reader with far more than he or she needs or wants to know.
Basically these people get too personal. They get too involved in explaining trivial parts of their lives, so that their accounts become tedious to the reader. Discretion? They act as though they never heard the word. If there is a chance to throw in a four-letter word for whatever reason, their tendency is to go for it.
Pro basketball superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Los Angeles Lakers falls into this trap occasionally in ''Giant Steps.'' He comes off as a man who - now that his book is out - positively has no unexpressed thoughts left in his 7-foot , 2-inch frame. Whether it is worth noting or not, Kareem seems to have put it on paper.
Abdul-Jabbar has purposefully been the most private and introverted of superstars. Why this six-time most valuable player decided to let it all out at this particular time isn't clear. But someone may have convinced him that the autobiography of any active performer will in-variably sell better than that of someone who has slipped into retirement. And the recent two-year contract that 36-year-old Abdul-Jabbar signed with the Lakers undoubtedly will be his last as a player in professional basketball.
Those who follow the game regularly will probably want to get a copy. True, Abdul-Jabbar often tends to be self-serving in these pages regarding anything even remotely controversial. But it is a highly entertaining book that reads well. And one thing is clear: it is Definitely an adult book.
Conflict between the ghetto and uptown, parents and child, whites and blacks, Roman Catholicism and Islam, player and media, etc., have been a large part of Abdul-Jabbar's life. So his writing clearly reflects the turbulence.
Still, the most revealing part of the book is where he admits that he started smoking marijuana at Power Memorial High School in New York. Later he admits to popping something far more dangerous - LSD, or acid.
Abdul-Jabbar describes the acid experience: ''When you're high everything feels unnatural, all your central perceptions are heightened to the point where they are not simply being received by your brain but are assailing it, a constant information overload. It can be frightening. I never panicked because I never did that much of it - one tab was my limit - but at certain times it can get depressing: like when you've been in the state for 45 minutes and you say, 'Wow, this is enough,' and it's going to be that way for four more hours. It's hard to cope with; you can get very anxious. I can understand how people would freak out; here you are with this stuff coursing through your body and no end in sight.''
Abdul-Jabbar is extremely praiseful of former UCLA Coach John Wooden, both as a man and a basketball technician. But he is not nearly so kind to Wilt Chamberlain or the media.
In describing Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar says flatly: ''Wilt had a lot to complain about because, from the start, he was unable to control me.''
Kareem also talks about the writers scurrying around like cockroaches after crumbs, and rates the IQ of most basketball beat men as hovering near shoe size.
But there have been a number of times, after Abdul-Jabbar played poorly in important games in which his team lost, when he skipped his shower and exited by a side door while the nation's press waited to ask him questions.
Unfortunately for Kareem, too many writers remember that Joe DiMaggio would never have done this, nor would have Joe Louis!