Some younger fans might not know Chris Jackson, an NBA player who spends majority of his career in the 1990s. In 1991, Chris converted to Islam, changed his name to Mahmoud Abdul Rauf and started rituals taught in his religion.
In his first season as a moslem, Abdul Rauf celebrated Ramadan by fasting for thirty days while at the same time went through the grueling NBA season. By his own admission, his early year committing fully to Islam was a tough challenge, because his teammates could not stop teasing him. They drank in front of him while he was struggling to fight his thirst. Some of his teammates slowly realized that he was seriously doing his rituals as a moslem, especially the year when he received The Most Improved Player award.
Abdul Rauf is one of the best free throw shooter in NBA history. In 1993-1994, he shot 95.6% from the free throw line, which is good enough for the third best in NBA history. Stephen Curry, one of the biggest names in the NBA today is known for his shooting ability, but Abdul Rauf surely resembles his skill set. Phil Jackson went as far as saying that Stephen Curry reminds him of Abdul Rauf who contributed to one loss the Chicago Bulls suffered in 1995-1996 season.
One day, Houston Rockets visited Denver in regular season and it set up a meeting between Hakeem Olajuwon and Abdul Rauf. It has been known to most NBA fans that Hakeem Olajuwon dominance in the 1990s is linked to his full devotion to Islam, but they do not know that meeting with Abdul Rauf is the beginning of it.
Over the course if his career, Olajuwon led the Houston Rockets to two championships and became the first player in NBA history to be elected MVP, Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season.
Fasting and having no fluids for more than 12 hours did not stop him from being even more dominant. He was named NBA player of the Month in February 1995, although Ramadan started on February 1. Had Hakeem been playing in NBA today with all of the media exposure, world of social networking and 24 hour of continuing news, he would have been one of the most recognizable athletes in the world.
When asked about his religion and life in Jordan, he prefers to endure fasting period in United States, as it proves more challenge.
“If people are eating and drinking in front of you, the willpower of the Moslem should be stronger. That is what the training is for,” he said. “I find in the Arab world that when they are fasting, they say they are weaker and they don’t work as hard. But it should be the opposite.”
Hakeem Olajuwon and Mahmoud Abdul Rauf might be few examples in the NBA, but their presence should be noted by a lot of players that if they put their mind to it, they can overcome tough obstacle as tough as fasting