From Muhammad Ali to Shaquille O’Neal: Who ARE America’s Muslim sporting heroes?

While speaking to the nation during his Oval Office address Sunday night, President Barack Obama asked everyone to remember that ‘Muslim Americans are our friends, neighbors and sports heroes’.

Though the president failed to mention any specific athletes by name during his 13-minute address, President Obama’s reference to Muslim-American sports heroes was a well-played remark.

Americans must not take out their grievances with the fanatics on followers of Islam, he said.

There have been a number of prominent athletes in some of America’s most popular sports who were raised as Muslims or converted to Islam during the course of their careers.

Here are some of the top Muslim athletes in North American pro sports from the past and present.

Pictured top in 1960 in his boxing prime and above in 2011 Muhammad Ali was the heavyweight boxing champ

Heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali converted to Islam in 1964 and changed his name from Cassius Clay after briefly going by Cassius X. The 1964 world heavyweight boxing champion was suspended from boxing for refusing to serve in the Vietnam War but returned to the ring to capture two more titles after he was reinstated. Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984 and has spent much of his life since then serving as a philanthropist. He may be the best boxer of all time.

Muhammad Wilkerson, 26, NFL football player

Muhammad Wilkerson plays for the New York Jets and he is one of the best defensive ends in the National Football League. The 2011 first-round pick made his NFL debut on the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City, according to Newsday. He does not think dedication to Islam was the driving force behind the violence. He said in 2011: ‘Me and my religion had nothing to do with it. I just felt sorry for the people whose lives got taken and for their families.’

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 68, retired NBA basketball player 

NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar changed his name from Lew Alcindor at the age of 24 during the midst of one of his 20 seasons in the league. Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and was a six-time champion while playing for the Milwaukee Bucks and then the Los Angeles Lakers. He was known for his legendary hook shot during his time in the league and he has found success since retiring as an activist, author and cultural ambassador for the US government.

Nazem Kadri, 25, rising star in the National Hockey League

Although he is not a US citizen, Nazem Kadri was born in Canada and is therefore a North American Muslim. Kadri didn’t know many other Muslims while he was growing up but he did know a lot of hockey players and his fondness for the game led him to become the first Muslim ever to be drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs. His father used to teach him about other successful Muslim athletes while he was young and one day he too may be an inspiration, according to Aljazeera.

Hakeem Olajuwon, 52, Hall of Fame NBA center 

Hakeem Olajuwon was born in Nigeria and came to the United States so he could play basketball for the University of Houston. The unlikely star was drafted by the Houston Rockets and went on to play 18 seasons in the NBA. He led the Rockets to back-to-back championships in 1994 and 1995. Olajuwon, who became a US citizen, was one of the most dominant two-way centers in league history and he was named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

Mike Tyson, 49, one of the most famous – and infamous – boxers in history 

Mike Tyson became the youngest heavyweight boxing champion of the world in history at the age of 20 in 1986 and was one of the most famous athletes of the 1980s. He lost the title in 1990 and converted to Islam while serving time after a rape conviction in 1992. After his release from prison, Tyson resumed fighting but became better known for biting off Evander Holyfield’s ear during a 1997 bout than anything he accomplished in the ring. He is now an actor and media personality.

Shaquille O’Neal, 43, NBA icon, champion and Olympic gold medalist 


Retired NBA player Shaquille O’Neal is still in the spotlight thanks to his hosting job on TNT and that is probably the way the outspoken star likes it. O’Neal had fellow Muslim Louis Farrakhan at his wedding in 2003 and, although he does not often discuss his faith publicly, the All Star player did say while he was a member of the Boston Celtics that he intended to take the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. Besides sports, O’Neal has found success with acting, rapping and even law enforcement.

Bernard Hopkins, 50, elite middleweight and light heavyweight boxer

Former middleweight and light heavyweight boxing champion Bernard Hopkins discovered Islam and a love for boxing while serving time for robbery when he was a teenager. He went on to become an elite middleweight fighter and successfully defended his title 20 times after becoming champ. He went on to fight as a light heavyweight and at the age of 49 became the oldest boxer to ever win a world championship. He swore off drugs, alcohol and junk food after converting to Islam.

Source: The DailyMail

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

scroll to top