By Doug Russell Special to Published Aug 29, 2012 at 3:00 PM

They are both divisive and revered. They have been debated and memorialized; then become gathering places for impromptu memorial services and candlelight vigils. They are posed with, dressed up, prayed at, and even used to try to manipulate history to fit a more genteel narrative.

They are larger than life, and with one very notable exception, forever.

This week, two Milwaukee sports icons are in the news for the highest honor one can have bestowed upon them. Monday it was announced that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will get his long-awaited statue erected outside of the Staples Center in Los Angeles; on Friday Bob Uecker will have his unveiled at Miller Park.

Both men, of course, are deserving of the honor. But while one icon openly complained about his exclusion, the other used his characteristic wit and self-deprecation to almost be embarrassed by his inclusion.

"I don't understand (it)," Abdul-Jabbar said last year when it was announced that the Boston Celtics were honoring legend Bill Russell with a statue outside of TD Garden. The NBA legend that started his career in Milwaukee was miffed that he did not have a statue outside of Lakers home arena. "It's either an oversight or they're taking me for granted. I'm not going to try to read people's minds, but it doesn't make me happy. It's definitely a slight. I feel slighted."

What exactly Russell's statue 3,000 miles away had to do with infuriating Abdul-Jabbar is unknown, but it was clearly something he had been thinking about for a long time.

Of course, Abdul-Jabbar and the Lakers have had a rocky relationship over the years, which may sound familiar to Bucks fans. Abdul-Jabbar, while erudite and learned, also has a massive ego. An ego, not unlike many superstar athletes, that needs to be stroked.

"I am highly offended by the total lack of acknowledgement of my contribution to Lakers success," Abdul-Jabbar continued. "I guess being the lynchpin for five world championships is not considered significant enough in terms of being part of Lakers history."

Of course the notion that his contributions have gone unnoticed is absurd, especially considering the Lakers explanation to the all-time leading scorer in NBA history.

"We've been at Staples Center 11 years and have two ex-players (Magic Johnson and Jerry West) who have statues now," spokesman John Black responded last year. "It's not like we do it every year; we have no timetable. Whenever we do the next statue of the third Los Angeles Lakers player, it (will be) Kareem---and he has been told that. Again, we didn't say when that was going to be."

As it turns out, the squeaky wheel got the grease, as childish as his tantrum may have been.

Conversely, when Uecker, Milwaukee's greatest sports ambassador was notified of the honor in March, he used his typical wit and charm to diffuse how Brewers fans and the entire organization felt about his likeness in bronze.

When asked what took so long, he deadpanned to reporters, "I didn't have enough for the down payment."

Uecker will join fellow Milwaukee baseball legends Hank Aaron, Robin Yount, and Bud Selig on the Brewers version of Mount Rushmore. Four men without whom the tapestry of the franchise could not have been weaved. Like Selig, Uecker's statue will not be of a man in a baseball uniform.

"Kind of a Schwarzenegger-type thing," Uecker joked. "Beefcake. Speedos. Pretty buffed. It's really enhanced. I've seen pictures of the finished product, and, yes, I'm very pleased."

All kidding aside, Uecker was moved by the recognition of his work.

"I'm honored, and I'm pleased with it," he continued. "I thank the whole organization. (Owner) Mark Attanasio. The players. Who are we as broadcasters without the guys who make the game to call and make the games exciting? I hope the fans have enjoyed listening as much as I've enjoyed doing the games."

Of course, this will bring up the inevitable question of who should next be so honored. I have made the case for Warren Spahn to be the next statue that is erected, but there is a feeling that since he never played or worked for the Brewers, it will not happen, at least not in the foreseeable future.

If Spahn does not get his place in front of Miller Park (and only yards from where he won 124 of his 363 total career victories) the likelihood is that we will have to wait out Ryan Braun's career before he may be posed in stone perpetuity.

But that is okay. Statues should not be handed out to the merely good. Mortal men are good. Statues are for the immortal.

Well, that is what we thought, anyway.

There has been no statue that has garnered more publicity than that of Joe Paterno's. The last year has been unlike any other in tiny State College, PA. One year ago, passersby might stop at the legend's likeness and wonder how long the old man had left on the sidelines.

In November, that question was answered with a mighty thud in the wake of the monstrous deeds of Jerry Sandusky. Immediately after his firing, Paterno's statue became an instant gathering place – as if to try to reach the man himself. Mere months later, as he lay dying in a local hospital, candlelight vigils were held there in what then became a memorial after his passing.

After former FBI Director Louis Freeh's exhaustive report detailed Paterno's shocking and callous disregard for children's safety for the sake of not garnering bad publicity this summer, Penn State's once gathering place of enshrinement was felled in the early Sunday morning hours of July 22 by university workmen acting on orders to take away what could only be a gaping reminder of a culture run amok.

In Green Bay, the newly iconic entrance to Lambeau Field's atrium is flanked by matching 14-foot likenesses of the two sideline legends of the franchise. Almost acting as stone guards overseeing all who enter their kingdom, there they are: Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi. The statues are posed with Lambeau pointing towards Lombardi, with Vince gazing right back at Curly. It is an awe-inspiring sight.

The statues convey the two men's shared historical significance and the mutual respect they will share forever as the keepers of the Green Bay Packers glorious past.

Except that in real life, they absolutely despised one another.

In Green Bay, you could make the argument that the entire stadium could be encircled with the statues of players past. Bart Starr's likeness can make the trip across the street from the Resch Center and easily join the likes of Nitschke, White, Hutson, Kramer, Adderly, Canadeo and, perhaps one day, Favre. Maybe. We'll see.

The fight to build a replacement for the Bradley Center is still in its infancy, but any plans should involve permanent monuments to the Bucks greatest players of all-time. Kareem could get a second statue, joining Oscar Robertson, Sidney Moncrief and Don Nelson out in the courtyard.

Statues are funny things. Sometimes they do not even look like the person that it is supposed to be. Sometimes, they are completely out of place with the rest of their surroundings (Bronze Fonz, I'm looking at you). Sometimes there is a subconscious belief that the person's spirit somehow lives on within his cast moldings.

Then again, sometimes, they are just target practice for pigeons.

Doug Russell Special to

Doug Russell has been covering Milwaukee and Wisconsin sports for over 20 years on radio, television, magazines, and now at

Over the course of his career, the Edward R. Murrow Award winner and Emmy nominee has covered the Packers in Super Bowls XXXI, XXXII and XLV, traveled to Pasadena with the Badgers for Rose Bowls, been to the Final Four with Marquette, and saw first-hand the entire Brewers playoff runs in 2008 and 2011. Doug has also covered The Masters, several PGA Championships, MLB All-Star Games, and Kentucky Derbys; the Davis Cup, the U.S. Open, and the Sugar Bowl, along with NCAA football and basketball conference championships, and for that matter just about anything else that involves a field (or court, or rink) of play.

Doug was a sports reporter and host at WTMJ-AM radio from 1996-2000, before taking his radio skills to national syndication at Sporting News Radio from 2000-2007. From 2007-2011, he hosted his own morning radio sports show back here in Milwaukee, before returning to the national scene at Yahoo! Sports Radio last July. Doug's written work has also been featured in The Sporting News, Milwaukee Magazine, Inside Wisconsin Sports, and Brewers GameDay.

Doug and his wife, Erika, split their time between their residences in Pewaukee and Houston, TX.