Riley recalled his first conversation with Abdul-Jabbar after he became the Lakers' coach.
"He said, 'Pat, you won't have to worry about me,'" Riley said. "He was great, and he has been there for us his whole career. He was our protector, and he was the one who carried us."
Abdul-Jabbar did much of his scoring with the famed shot depicted in his statue — including the basket with which he passed Wilt Chamberlain to become the NBA's career scoring leader on April 5, 1984, in Las Vegas. Former Milwaukee radio play-by-play announcer Eddie Doucette attended the statue unveiling and recounted the night he coined the term "skyhook" while Abdul-Jabbar played for the Bucks.
Abdul-Jabbar also received praise from several speakers for his humanitarian work and dedication to education in his post-basketball life. He also has written books and worked on documentary films.
And though the Lakers insist there are no hard feelings with their sometimes-prickly ex-superstar, Abdul-Jabbar ruefully recalled a minor ruckus he started a few years ago by complaining that Johnson and West had been honored with Staples Center statues before him.
"I had a little too much to say about it not happening right away," Abdul-Jabbar said. "But they were patient with me."
Julius Erving, Bill Walton, Bill Sharman, Jamaal Wilkes, Kurt Rambis, A.C. Green and James Worthy also attended the ceremony. NBA Commissioner David Stern, former President Bill Clinton and Abdul-Jabbar's son, Amir, sent congratulatory videos.
"Kareem was the most selfless super player that I've ever seen in my life," West said.