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Basketball star confirms he is a Muslim and observing Ramadan

14th May 2021
Basketball star confirms he is a Muslim and observing Ramadan

Kyrie Irving (Credit: Michael Wa/Flickr Commons)

Elham Asaad Buaras

National Basketball Association (NBA) star Kyrie Irving has confirmed that he has converted to Islam and is fasting, during a post-game press conference on April 23.

“I am taking part in Ramadan with a lot of my Muslim brothers and sisters. And it’s been an adjustment. … It’s just being committed to my service to God, Allah, and then continuing with whatever I’m guided with. I’m just happy to be part of my community and doing the right things. So fasting is definitely part of it – [I’m] just really blessed and grateful to be taking part in this,” said Brooklyn Nets star.

Rumours spread on April 12 that the 29-year-old had converted to Islam and was observing Ramadan fast. Images of Irving kneeling before the tipoff began to circulate on Twitter, Instagram and beyond. In previous weeks, Irving had posted tweets crediting Allah for matters personal and political.

After the news spread that Irving, who was once named the Rookie of the Year, is fasting some suggested that it might affect his performance on the field. However, the reverse happened. Since the beginning of Ramadan, Irving is averaging 25 points, 09 assists and 06 rebounds on 60 per cent true shooting including 98 per cent from the line in that seven-game stretch.

Upon learning of Irving embracing Islam, Jamad Fiin, a Black Muslim shooting guard for the Emmanuel College women’s basketball team who wears a hijab, said, “As a Black Muslim ballplayer myself, who grew up watching Irving play, I love how he’s bringing positive awareness to the religion because he’s such a big figure. It makes me proud and inspires me to not shy from who I am – a Muslim and a Black woman ballplayer who shouldn’t have to choose between the things that I am and the things that I love.”

Irving joins an illustrious and growing list of African American Basketball players to convert to Islam. Most notable among them is the civil rights activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 74, who converted to Islam from Catholicism in 1968. Abdul-Jabbar, who changed his name from Ferdinand Alcindor Jr, is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in NBA history he is the league’s all-time leader in points scored 38, 387.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, 52, born Chris Jackson was whiteballed from the NBA for his beliefs. Abdul-Rauf is widely regarded as the “Colin Kaepernick before Kaepernick”, protesting during the national anthem in 1996. Abdul-Rauf was drafted by the Denver Nuggets in 1990, and he converted to Islam the following year. In his first season in the NBA, he was named to the All-Rookie Second Team.

Abdul-Rauf led the league in free throw percentage in the 1993/94 and 1995/96 seasons. His free throw percentage of .956 in 1993–94 is the third-highest seasonal percentage in NBA history. He played with Denver until 1996, and was a key player on that team, winning the NBA Most Improved Player Award in 1993.

However, his career was cut short due to the controversy he sparked for calling the flag of the US a symbol of oppression and racism and explaining that standing for the anthem would conflict with his Muslim faith.

Larry Johnson, 52, the number one pick in the 1991 NBA draft who starred for the Charlotte Hornets and New York Knicks also converted to Islam during his prime playing years.

More recently, Stephen Jackson, a vital member of the San Antonio Spurs team, which won the NBA championship in the 2002/3 season, confirmed he converted to Islam. In a video posted to his Instagram page on January 7, the 42-year-old shared the low key ceremony at Masjid Ibn Uthaymeen in Philadelphia under the guidance of an imam. He later described it as “one of the best days of his life”. Jackson retired in 2015 after an illustrious and tumultuous career spanning 17 years, playing 14 seasons in the NBA.

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