Black Panther has finally arrived. Marvel is showcasing a movie nearly entirely full of Black actors, and it has everyone hype—even the NBA’s favorite cultural critic, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The Hollywood Reporter tapped Abdul-Jabbar to talk to director Coogler about the film’s impact. The NBA legend acknowledges that Black heroes have been championed in recent years. Netflix’s Luke Cage is about a bulletproof Black man and The CW’s Black Lightning is about a Black high school principal who can control electricity. But Black Panther is different— it’s on a global scale and the anticipation is sky-high.
Abdul-Jabbar asked Coogler why he thinks the anticipation for the movie is so crazy.
“The concept of an African story, with actors of African descent at the forefront, combined with the scale of modern franchise filmmaking, is something that hasn’t really been seen before. You feel like you’re getting the opportunity of seeing something fresh, being a part of something new, which I think all audiences want to experience regardless of whether they are of African descent or not,” he said.
The former Laker acknowledges that while the movie is set in some far away land called Wakanda, it still feels very present and now due in part to T’Challa’s own journey throughout the film. Just ask any millennial about being conflicted with their own identity and trying to find their voice, and they can relate.
While the film may be a moment for Black people, Coogler hopes that everyone can take something away from it—which includes women being seen as equal.
“…even though he is incredibly powerful, he has so many incredible women around him who are empowered to do what they are able to do in the film,” Coogler says on the timely reflection of women in the film.
Read the rest of Abdul-Jabbar’s interview with Black Panther director Ryan Coogler here.