No controversial, Rabelaisian sports tale Ã¡ la Jim Bouton's Ball Four, Abdul-Jabbar's diary of his final season is instead quiet, thoughtful, fiercely proud, and as cumulatively effective as the L.A. Laker legend's ""skyhook."" Facing retirement after the 1988-89 National Basketball Association season, the 42-year-old Abdul-Jabbar writes, ""I found myself wanting to get it all down, to capture my final season as it happened, and any memories along the way."" Some readers may find these reminiscences repetitive of his autobiography, Giant Steps (1983), including accounts of growing up in Manhattan's Inwood section, glory days at UCLA, conversion from Roman Catholicism to Islam, and a pro career that included six championship rings and records for most lifetime points scored (38,387) and Most Valuable Player awards (six). More absorbing and unusual are the great center's bittersweet reflections on his farewell tour. When he is not savoring fan applause in every league arena, Kareem struggles with an aching body, concern over eroding skills (""I wonder if I am being phased out""), and the Lakers' eight consecutive road losses and four-game sweep in the N.B.A. finals by the Detroit Pistons. Bruising battles with younger opponents and a jet-lag-marked, October-to-June schedule constitute the diary's narrative--with timeouts to reflect on teammates like Magic Johnson and James Worthy, coaches John Wooden and Pat Riley, one-time rival and ""whining crybaby"" Wilt Chamberlain, and a press that alternately abused and lionized Kareem. This chronicle could have been livelier and more provocative but for Kareem's reticence--yet those willing to overlook this defect will find here a superstar's graceful meditations on growing old in a young man's sport.