Kareem Abdul Jabbar is probably one of the most famous Muslim NBA players of all time. The record-breaking athlete, who retired as the NBA’s all-time leader in points until LeBron James recently broke his record in February, was born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. to devout Catholic parents in New York City before he converted to Islam aged 24 in 1971. He legally changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which means “noble one, servant of the Almighty,” shortly after leading the Milwaukee Bucks to their first-ever NBA championship.
At the time, Abdul Jabbar was one of the few high-profile athletes to be vocal about his Islamic faith. Today, however, there are a number of Muslim NBA players dominating the league while bringing positive awareness to the religion. Get to know some of them below.
Following countless speculations about his faith, the Brooklyn Nets star officially decided to disclose to the world during a press conference that he converted to Islam. “All praise is due to God, Allah, for this. … For me, in terms of my faith and what I believe in, being part of the Muslim community, being committed to Islam and also just being committed to all races and cultures, religions, just having an understanding and respect. I just want to put that as a foundation,” he said.
While the Boston Celtics star never came out and explicitly opened up about his religious beliefs, he does observe the holy month of Ramadan and avoids the consumption of pork. “Ramadan is something special, It’s something that’s saved my life in a lot of ways. So shoutout to all the people who are participating and shoutout to everybody who shows respect because, in reality, some things are bigger than basketball,” Brown said previously. The athlete was also spotted at the mosque a number of times.
The Uzbekistani-born Turkish basketball player who plays for the Miami Heat is vocal about his faith. A practicing Muslim, it is suggested that one of the reasons why the Georgetown University alum decided to leave North Carolina State University in Raleigh is because of Georgetown’s reputation for religious tolerance. There, the young athlete became a part of the city’s relatively large Muslim community.
The Senegal native was born into a Muslim family led by his father and studied the Quran at a young age. As a practicing Muslim, Dieng revealed that he prays five times a day and he even has an app on his phone that lets him know the exact time and direction to pray, no matter where the athlete is, so that he can keep up with his daily prayers amid his busy schedule while on the road.
Hailing from Germany, the athlete is a professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers. Born to a Gambian mother, it’s not surprising that Lakers point guard is Muslim considering that Islam is the largest religion in the West African country.
Enes Kanter Freedom
The athlete who last played for the Boston Celtics was born in Switzerland to a Muslim family originally from Turkey, where the majority of people practice Islam. In a past interview, the basketball player and activist revealed that Islam helps him “avoid bad habits and deeds. Instead, I can focus on being a good person and use religion as a map to reaching a better place through serving the community and standing up for justice.”