It’s no wonder that East India Carpet director Ravi Sidhoo has a hero in basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: the six-time NBA MVP also happens to be an established carpet collector and connoisseur, and has his very own collection with the renowned Minasian Rug Company! We chatted with Ravi about meeting Abdul-Jabbar IRL, and discovered his favourite piece from Minasian’s collection. —Vita Daily
Hi Ravi! We hear that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of your heroes; why is that?
I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, since I was young. When Kareem joined the team in 1975, he made an impact immediately; in the 1980s that team really became a dynasty, winning five NBA championships. My favourite moment in basketball history has to be the 1985 finals when the Lakers beat the reigning Celtics. He’s also just a really interesting guy, adopting yoga into his training regimen way back in the 1970s. We also share a great love of jazz music. Carpets have been part of my family history since my father Jab founded East India Carpets in 1948. Naturally, when I heard about Kareem’s interest in carpets in my youth, his hero status was solidified.
What do you know about Abdul-Jabbar’s Minasian collection, and what makes his passion, like your own, so unique?
Kareem made the details of his collection public in 2016 when he sold part of his personal collection to the Minasian Rug Company. I was impressed with how deeply he delved into the trade—collecting from rug shops as he travelled around the world. He’s really educated himself on 19th-century Persian Qashqai rugs. I share a similar appreciation for tribal carpets as they evoke nomadic images as opposed to city palace carpets. What makes rugs so special is that it is an art form that has both aesthetic appeal and a practical function.
Does EIC carry any of these pieces? Do you have a favourite from the range?
East India Carpets has Persian rugs from the same family of design. One of my favourite pieces from the collection is an Antique Turkmen Ersari-Beshir with a really strong geometric lozenge motif. When he was selling to Minasian he noted it was once in his kid’s bedroom and they somehow managed not to destroy it; I like how the history of a carpet can be enriched as it passes along.
Have you met your hero in person? Did you talk shop?
We met each other at a fundraiser in Los Angeles; it was pretty special to meet him after he has had such an influence on my life. We mostly spoke a lot about the intersection of basketball and immigration. Caribbean immigration to Canada was so instrumental in shaping the basketball landscape here, and Kareem’s family roots are from Trinidad.