"At least eight Muslims compete in the NBA: four Turks, two African-Americans, one Iranian and one Tanzanian. One of them is center Nazr Mohammed of the Oklahoma City Thunder, now battling the Miami Heat for the championship.
The special relationship between Muslims and basketball goes beyond any particular player or team and embraces the sport itself. It is not unlike the one described in “Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story,” a 2010 documentary film by Ira Berkow, Pulitzer winning sportswriter.
“Every Muslim community I go to, there’s this obsession for basketball. Almost every mosque you go to, there’s a basketball court outside,” said Musab Abdali, a 19-year-old Houston man helping to organize youth programs.
Muslims have competed professionally in football, boxing and soccer, but the number of basketball stars putting their faith in a positive spotlight is unrivaled. These include all-time NBA leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and 12-time NBA All-Star Hakeem Olajuwon, who retired in 2002 after a long career spent mainly with the Houston Rockets.
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Thunder center Nazr Mohammed (right) met Lakers guard Kobe Bryant in the NBA playoffs. Mohammed inspires Muslims across the U.S (image source)