NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sells rug collection at Evanston store

Victoria Cabales, Reporter

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Although more commonly known for his prowess on the basketball court, the National Basketball Association’s all-time scoring leader and Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also has a passion for collecting decorative rugs.

Abdul-Jabbar will be selling part of his collection through the Minasian Rug Company, 1244 Chicago Ave. The store began promoting the partnership in mid-December.

Store co-owners and brothers Carnig and Armen Minasian recalled meeting Abdul-Jabbar in the 1970s, when he began collecting rugs while playing for the Milwaukee Bucks.

When he was younger, Abdul-Jabbar visited rug shops as he traveled to different cities, Minasian Rug Company salesman Mehdy Douraghy said. Starting with a few small ones, Abdul-Jabbar delved deeper into the trade and began studying rugs, Douraghy said.

“He had knowledge of how to buy, what to look for, age and different things,” Douraghy said.

The store is selling about 60 of Abdul-Jabbar’s rugs, marked by the letters KAJ, Carnig Minasian said. He expects to receive about 20 more rugs from Abdul-Jabbar and said they will cost between $3,500 and $100,000. Carnig Minasian said Abdul-Jabbar refused to sell his rare, tricolor silk rugs, but he decided to sell the others to make room for future purchases.

Many of the pieces in Abdul-Jabbar’s collection are 19th century Turkmen and Caucasian carpets with exquisite, finely woven designs, Carnig Minasian said, and the vast collection varies from nomadic, tribal rugs to prayer-oriented Muslim rugs.

“(Abdul-Jabbar is) more knowledgeable than most dealers that are selling rugs,” he said. “He recognizes quality; he recognizes things that are unusual.”  

Carnig Minasian said many of the buyers know of Abdul-Jabbar outside of his career as a professional basketball player, taking interest in his writing and activity as a scholar. Jabbar visited Northwestern in November to speak about his identity as a Muslim. Born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, he changed his name and converted to Islam more than 40 years ago.

Abdul-Jabbar’s rugs have increased national interest in the shop, he said.

“There’s a lot, a lot of interest,” Carnig Minasian said. “I’m getting calls every day, all day long from people who want to come see the rugs, or see the pictures, from all over the country.”

Carnig Minasian said he believes Abdul-Jabbar likely chose the store because the owners try to educate their customers about the style and the history of the rugs they purchase. The shop has had a long history of educating the public about antique rugs, starting from its founding in 1897, the owners said. Carnig Minasian, whose grandmother was a weaver in Armenia, said his family’s involvement in the rug business goes back many years.

The brothers’ grandfather, Sam Jorjorian, taught a class about carpet design at NU during the 1920s, Carnig Minasian said. He added that he followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and taught at NU’s School of Continuing Studies to certify individuals who wanted to become rug appraisers.

Carnig Minasian said he is honored to now be working with Abdul-Jabbar.

“He is such a nice person to be with,” he said. “We learned a lot from him. … It’s been really a great thing.”