Most Famous Muslim NBA Players of All Time

The NBA has benefited greatly from athletes from all walks of life being able to make it to the big show. Some NBA players have dazzled us on and off of the court for decades, they are truly a breed of their own.

We don’t often think about these players personal lives, and maybe that is a good thing. There have been a number of NBA players that have come from a multitude of religious faiths, some players will even fast during the season.

With all of that being said, here are some of the most famous Muslim NBA players of all time.

Larry Johnson- Charlotte Hornets and New York Knicks

Larry Johnson was a power forward who retired from the NBA in 2001. Despite making a verbal commitment to playing for Southern Methodist, Johnson started his college career with Odessa College, a junior or community college in Texas. After two years, he transferred to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

He was drafted in the 1991 NBA Draft first overall by the Charlotte Hornets, where he would pay until 1996. He was then traded from Charlotte to the New York Knicks for Anthony Manson and Brad Lohaus.

He retired early in 2001 due to chronic back pain, a problem he suffered from for years. He also was a two-time NBA All-Star.

Hakeem Olajuwon- Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors

Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon, also known as “the Dream” was an NBA center who played in the league from 1984, all the way to 2002. Originally from Lagos, Nigeria, he came across the pond to the United States to play for the University of Houston.

His number 34 was retired by the Cougars, and when he was voted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 1984, they took out a full billboard congratulating him. He was drafted first overall in the 1984 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets.

He played for the Rockets from 1984 to 2001, winning two NBA championships in 1994 and 1995.

In 2001, he was traded from the Rockets to the Raptors for draft picks. He opted to retire in 2002 due to complications in with his back. His number was almost immediately retired by the Houston Rockets.

Rasheed Wallace- Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, Washington Bullets, Portland Trail Blazers, Atlanta Hawks, and Boston Celtics.

Rasheed Wallace was a power forward and center who played in the NBA from 1995 to 2010 and came back for a season in 2012. He has been coaching since 2013, having been an assists coach with the Pistons and Tigers.

Rasheed grew up in Germantown, near Philadelphia. After high school, Rasheed went to the University of North Carolina.

He was drafted fourth overall by the then Washington Bullets in the 1995 NBA Draft. He played one season with Washington before being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers, where he played most of his career until 2004.

He then was traded to the Hawks, where he again only played one season, before being traded again to Detroit. Wallace won the NBA Championship with Detroit in 2004.

He played for five seasons in Detroit before being shipped off to Boston. He then played one season before being bought out. He retired from basketball in 2010.

In October of 2012, he came out of retirement to play with the Knicks. He didn’t play a full season after he broke his left foot, playing his last NBA game in April of 2013.

Kyrie Irving- Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtic, and Brooklyn Nets

Born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, Irving did grow up here in the United States, growing up in New Jersey. Doesn’t get any more American than that! After an incredible high school basketball career, Irving would attend the Duke University.

Irving and Duke had an incredible year, but were eliminated by Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen. Irving announced he would forgo his last three years in college to go pro, where he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers first overall in the 2011 NBA Draft.

He played in Cleveland from 2011 to 2017, during that time he won a Gold Medal in the 2014 World Cup and an Olympic Gold Medal in 2016. He capped it all off with an NBA championship in 2016.

Irving requested a trade out of Cleveland in 2017, where he was then traded to the Celtics in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the Nets first round pick in 2018.

He then played there for two seasons before signing with the Nets in 2019, playing closer to home. He finished the 2021-22 season with a 27.4 points per game average.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar- Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers

Born in New York as Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr, Kareem was a center in the NBA from 1969 to 1989, twenty years of athletic greatness. There were a few options for Kareem after high school, including a shot with the Globetrotters.

Wanting to attend college, Abdul-Jabbar chose to enroll at the University of California, Los Angeles. He played at UCLA from 1966 to 1969. His number 33 was retired by UCLA and is still regarded as one of the greatest players to play for the school.

He was then drafted first overall by the Milwaukee Bucks during the 1969 NBA Draft. He played in Wisconsin from 1969 to 1975, winning his first NBA championship with the Bucks.

After the 1975 season, Abdul-Jabbar announced that he wanted to play basketball somewhere else. The Bucks shipped him off to sunny California, allowing him to play for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers sent back to Milwaukee Elmore Smith, Brian Winters, Dave Myers, and Junior Bridgeman, along with cash. Abdul-Jabbar would play for the Lakers from 1976 all the way to 1989, winning another five NBA championships. He was also a six-time NBA MVP.

After retirement, Abdul-Jabbar would try his hand off the court at being an assistant coach, coaching with the Clippers in 2000 and then the Lakers from 2005 to 2011. He would win two more NBA championships as an assistant coach.

Final Words

These were our top 5 most well known muslim NBA players. Are there any players you think we should add to the list? Let us know!

Read next: Atheist Basketball Players: Exploring the Presence of Non-Believers on the Court

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