NBA Players Observing The Holy Month of Ramadan

Apr 5, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) gestures to fans before a game against the New York Knicks at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

NBA players are some of the most gifted athletes from around the world. Almost all of them fuel their body’s with the proper nutrition to stay at the top of their games. However, Muslim NBA players are learning to cope without this during daylight hours while observing the holy month of Ramadan. Currently, Muslims worldwide are observing the month of Ramadan by fasting from sunrise to sunset abstaining from food and water. Ramadan is a time where Muslims practice discipline, self-control and feel for the less fortunate.

The Ramadan Experience

Hundreds of Muslims came to the Islamic Center of Passaic County, to pray, Tuesday night, April 13, 2021. Tuesday was the first full day of the holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan
Kevin R. via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The holy month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar. In addition, to practicing discipline and self-control, fasting has great health benefits. It is important to note that fasting is not obligatory on the elderly, children, or anyone unable to, including the sick or travelers or anyone unable to. Finally, Ramadan is a time of charity, community, and prayers.

Ramadan is described by those who observe it to be one of the most peaceful times of their lives. Many are said to be extremely focused, humble, and grateful. Further, it is a time to spend time with family and enjoy the small things in life.

Recently, Ramadan in the NBA has gained a spotlight as Kyrie Irving made headlines due to his announcement of taking part in the month of Ramadan. Irving announced his commitment to his faith during his press conference after the Brooklyn Nets win against the Boston Celtics. He was quoted saying,

I am taking part in Ramadan with a lot of my Muslim brothers and sisters. And it’s been an adjustment. That’s really what I can say. It�s just being committed to my service to God, Allah, and then continuing on with whatever I�m guided with. I�m just happy to be part of my community and doing the right things. So, fasting is definitely part of it � if you know anything about the Muslim community. But yeah, just really blessed and grateful to be taking part of this.

Nets Guard Kyrie Irving

Fasting and Basketball

Mar 11, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) and Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) go after a loose ball in the first quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Other NBA players from all over the league will also be observing the month of Ramadan. Players such as Jaylen Brown, Jusuf Nurkic, Enes Kanter, Hamidou Diallo, and Tacko Fall will participate. While abstaining from food and water all day, it is tough to stay energetic throughout the day and even do everyday activities. It will be interesting to see how their bodies will perform and heal in the fast-paced NBA play style.

Further, past NBA players have committed to fasting throughout the month of Ramadan and have put up amazing performances. Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and Hakeem Olajuwon are notably the two players that have performed and stepped up their game.

Not Slowing Down

Jun 1994, USA: FILE PHOTO; Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon (34) defends New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing (33) during the 1994 NBA Finals at the Summit. Mandatory Credit: MPS-USA TODAY Sports

Particularly, Hakeem Olajuwon, one of the most underrated stars of all time, has had some amazing performances throughout his years in the NBA. For example, during the 1994-1995 NBA season, Olajuwon played 15 games during Ramadan. In those 15 games, he averaged 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks. All while maintaining great health, following his faith, and leading his Houston Rockets to the NBA championship that season. These moments define players and their perseverance.

During the past few games, Muslim players, such as Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown, exemplify Hakeem’s behavior. Although this is Kyrie Irving’s first Ramadan, and he has been adjusting to fasting and playing basketball without food or water, he still has had the ability to have stellar performances.

Irving put up 37 points against the Philadelphia 76ers and 32 points against the New Orleans Pelicans. His playmaking abilities have also been able to shine as he has been averaging 8.5 assists since Ramadan started. On the other hand, Jaylen Brown started the month strong by scoring 40 points in 32 minutes against one of the top-rated defenses, the Los Angeles Lakers.

Strengthening Perseverance

Feb 23, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter (11) warms up before the game against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Notably, Enes Kanter has said that,

Whenever the Ramadan time comes, it gives me so much mental strength, and it�s like my superpowers come back

Portland Trailblazers Center Enes Kanter

Kanter is hinting that Ramadan has given him much more time to grow as a person regardless of his fasting and become at peace with himself. This may help players become the best player themselves on the court and off the court.

Other NBA players have also had string quotes that define their perseverance through the month. Hamidou Diallo wrote about Ramadan on The Players’ Tribune and wrote that,

We�re all dealing with the struggles of fasting, but we�re putting that aside because of our faith, and our trust in Allah. So, for me, Ramadan has always been about incredibly strong faith intertwined with togetherness.

Detroit Pistons Forward Hamidou Diallo

Currently, as Muslim NBA players take part in Ramadan, it will be important to see how they continue to carry themselves on and off the court. Fasting will not only test their perseverance and discipline. But bring about spiritual awakening and growth.

Further, as Ramadan is a month of family and community, players may rally and unite their teams. This may help their teams make a tremendous push to the finals, playoffs, or even complete other NBA teams’ goals.

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