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  • Mamadou Tall

History of Ramadan and the NBA

The holy month of Ramadan has come to a close as millions of Muslims around the world celebrate Eid Al-Fitr. Kyrie Irving has brought much of the NBA world's attention to Ramadan and the sacrifices and lessons that come along with the month.

While "Ramadan Kyrie" has taken the NBA by storm, Ramadan has been prevalent in the NBA for several decades.

For starters, what is Ramadan? What does it entail? The holy month of Ramadan is much more than abstaining from eating and drinking. Ramadan is a month where Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset. It's a month where participants engage in introspection and put themselves in the shoes of those who are less fortunate. A month of prayer, getting closer with Allah, the Quran, and giving back to those in need. An opportunity to center one's self spiritually and physically.

Before we got the chance to witness the greatness of 'Ramadan Kyrie' there was Hakeem Olajuwon who introduced the NBA world to Ramadan and the idea of fasting during the NBA season. He did so at a time when Islam wasn't largely embraced in the States as it is now. At a time when the world wasn't as tolerant as it is now.

A 12-time all-star, 2-time NBA champion, 2-time Finals MVP, 2-time Defensive Player of the Year, and MVP; Olajuwon is one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA. At the same time he was a pioneer in the game paving the way for numerous Muslim players that followed. Throughout his 18-year career, it was the norm for Olajuwon to fast during the NBA season. So much so that at times he even extended his fasts past Ramadan, stating that it helped his performance on the court.

In some instances, Olajuwon reached the peak of his powers during Ramadan. Such examples came during the 1994-1995 season where during the month of Ramadan Olajuwon averaged an impressive 29.5 points, 10 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 3.4 blocks, and 1.4 steals on 55% shooting from the field.

Via Stat Muse

From the outside looking in many might view fasting during the NBA season as a disadvantage for players, but Olajuwon viewed it as a testament of one's willpower. The type of willpower that would force one to elevate their game to another level mentally, spiritually and physically.

Olajuwon set the standard that we witness many players follow today. The most popular examples are Kyrie Irving of the Dallas Mavericks and Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics. Aside from them there have been a myriad of players who have fasted during the NBA season and NBA game. Players such as Gorgui Dieng, Taurean Prince, and Enes Kanter Freedom.

For now, we get to witness the greatness of Ramadan Kyrie as he continues to show us that one’s willpower can circumvent any challenge in life. He just happens to do it on the court, at an extremely high level.

As the NBA continues to grow globally we can expect to see many more Muslim players enter the league. Before you know it Ramadan will become an integral part of the NBA just like the other holidays.


"Many of you might not be privy the fact that I am Muslim. With that being said, Eid Mubarak to all of Muslims and those who partook in Ramadan this year. May Allah accept all of our fasts and duas” - Mamadou Tall a.k.a. Hoops Views

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