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.
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
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.