"He’s getting ready to go through it,” Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf said to NPR this October regarding hearing about the stance Colin Kaepernick took for the rights of Blacks in America, a fight he knows well.
Twenty years ago, former NBA star Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf took a similar peaceful stance against oppression and injustice in America following his conversion to Islam. The backlash he received turned his life upside down. Things changed for Abdul-Rauf following an interview about his absence during the National Anthem, which he avoided observing for four to six months before being asked to talk to the press. This was his answer to the flag being oppressive but it didn't sit well with the public.
By 2001, Abdul-Rauf, the father of five, was out of the league after a shortened playing time and several trades. In his memoir In the Blink of an Eye, released through Kaepernick’s publishing company, Abdul-Rauf shares intimate details of his life and many of the inspirational, painful, and powerful events that shaped it.
With his memoir on shelves, we look at seven things you should know about the groundbreaking legend.
Abdul-Rauf was discovered on the playground by a girls’ basketball coach in his hometown of Gulfport, MS. In his first game, despite not knowing the rules, Abdul-Rauf scored 24 points.
Named Mississippi’s Mr. Basketball twice, in 1987 and 1988, in his senior season in high school he averaged 29.9 points and 5.7 assists per game and was called up to the McDonald’s, Parade and Dapper Dan first-team All-American.
Abdul-Rauf initially garnered attention as a Louisiana State University freshman phenom formally named Chris Wayne Jackson. Averaging 30 points per game with a hair-trigger jumper and acrobatic layups for the 6’1 recruit.
The talented baller went pro after his sophomore year and was picked third in 1990 by the Denver Nuggets.
5. By the 1995-96 season, Abdul-Rauf had converted to Islam and was undefendable on the court, defeating Michael Jordan and the Bulls during their 72-win season, dropping 32 points.
6. 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.
7. The players union supported Abdul-Rauf following his suspension for his protest, and he quickly reached a compromise with the league allowing him to stand and pray with his head down during the National Anthem. However, his beliefs became too heavy for the league and Abdul-Rauf was out by 2001 and would never get another NBA offer.